here’s another report from mental health camp. for some reason, i just can’t bring myself to get all official about it and write it from the point of view of the organizer, so i’ll write it from my personal point of view. so here are a few fragments, which do not do justice to the whole big event but which nevertheless will give you a bit of a taste:
our logistics on the day of were a little wonky; influenced, in part, i think, by the more official feel of the location. the event was in a beautiful building, the aquatic ecology research lab at the university of british columbia; the first one had been at the very intimate location of the sadly now defunct workspace. one of the things that were wonky were that the first presenters did not get introduced. steffi, who spoke about “ripping off the scabs through writing”, was understandably not very happy about it. what i liked was that we were to hear this complaint without getting defensive, and immediately rectified it, with the help of wonderful people like sue macdonald from the CMHA and kemp edmonds. (these two and our other volunteers were highlights in and of themselves!)
perhaps the thing that most stuck with me was the role that art and creativity played at mental health camp. there was steffi talking about her writing. there was j peachy who presented a whole session of sound therapy radio, complete with a live band (ranj singh and the discriminators), each of whose member was standing in front of a painting (see here for a video clip of it). that session also featured a young woman talking openly about eating disorders for the first time, as well as creative participation by the whole audience. j peachy is part of gallery gachet, a vancouver collective of artists who have experience with mental health issues.
also part of gallery gachet was a lunchtime presentation of the beautiful film crooked beauty, which “explores positive and compassionate models for transforming the experience of madness in our culture.” it features one of the founders of the icarus project, ashley mcnamara.
the icarus project envisions a new culture and language that resonates with our actual experiences of ‘mental illness’ rather than trying to fit our lives into a conventional framework.
there was michelle clausius, who gave a presentation about the artistic endeavours of the young people who contribute to on the house, the award-winning blog of covenant house. this is what covenant house does:
covenant house exists for those young people for whom there is often no one else ” young people aged 16 – 24 who have either willingly fled physical, emotional and/or sexual abuse, those who have been forced from their homes or those who have aged out of foster care. we bandage their cut-up feet from days and nights walking the streets; we give them hot food and a warm bed and we support them in their choice to change their present circumstances while helping them heal from past traumas.
another session where i experienced high creativity was katarina halm’s presentation on focusing. i loved how she used the yellow balls pressed against our bodies almost as “speakers” to help us feel our bodies better.
doing this with my good friend raul was a pleasure, once again. we feed on each other’s ideas and calm each other down when we fly too high. there were a few instances when we really needed that, most of it as a result of nasty troll comments directed at some of the presenters and also at ourselves. because of our support for each other, i hope we can say we managed to stick with our core philosophies: inclusion, compassion, and clear communication. thank you, raul!