By Martin, Tijana on February 23, 2018.
Youth gathered at the Galt Museum on Wednesday to share a united message – ” I Stand Against – Mental Health Stigmas.”
The “I Stand Against” (ISA) campaign started five years ago by the Boys and Girls Club of Lethbridge. Initially, it was a simple social media campaign but has grown into a much larger event.
Three years ago they decided to incorporate various agencies throughout the city and transformed ISA into a youth service fair which tackles a new issue annually.
Past topics include LGBTQ+ and racial and cultural discrimination.
On Wednesday night, they tackled the theme for Mental Health Stigmas and drew a crowd in the hundreds. Youth had the opportunity to speak with representatives from local organizations, hear from their peers and participate in various forms of therapy, such as art therapy, yoga and pet therapy.
“Mental health stigmas create a very big barrier in youth and all members of our community,” said Adam Saley, youth services director, Boys and Girls Club of Lethbridge & District.
“I think a lot of youth are scared to talk about these issues just because of what they see as stigmas portrayed in the media of how mental health looks,” said Saley.
While a mental health disorder or illness may be portrayed in a certain light, it doesn’t mean that’s the way it affects everyone.
In fact, many people have misconceptions on mental health that are completely false.
As a result, Saley suspects many may not even realize they’re currently struggling with a mental illness.
They say, “that’s not what I’m feeling, so that must not be what this is,” Saley explained. “When in actuality that’s what depression could be; that’s what anxiety and bipolar could look like.”
Saley hoped the event would allow youth to “start a conversation and make people feel comfortable and in a safe space to know there is awesome resources and connections in the city of Lethbridge that they can reach out to when they’re not feeling happy and they’re not feeling like themselves.”
River Stone, a 17-year-old young woman, has found the courage to share her story in an effort to help others.
She was one of the scheduled speakers for the event and she focused on impact Hollywood has on mental health and her own struggles with her mental health.
“I think people can relate to that and it will help them feel like they are not alone; help them step out of their comfort zone,” said Stone.
Speaking out also allowed her the opportunity to get her feelings off her chest.
“I think talking about it helps even when it’s not to a therapist … teachers, leaders or adults in your life,” she explained, adding just reaching out to a friend can help.
“It takes a village to raise a child, it takes a village to raise a person, it takes a village to help them develop and grow and humans are constantly developing and growing.”
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