Partnering with the University of Guelph, international organization Art Not Shame ran a series of mental health related virtual workshops with the students. Particularly successful were the virtual workshops featuring award-winning short films and panel discussion with students and local mental health professionals. The students were engaged in critical conversations about mental health, watching short films followed by a facilitated discussion. Themes that arose included: how happiness is possible despite experiences with trauma, how the media contributes to stigma, and reasons why people don’t seek support for their mental health when they need it.
Attendees also discussed actions they could take after reflecting on the conversation, such as: sharing resources with others, talking about mental health at a younger age, recognizing boundaries, and having good support networks. Attendees shared about their own experiences with a mental illness during facilitated discussion with facilitators from CMHA Waterloo Wellington or Family Counselling and Support Services, Guelph-Wellington.
Due to the pandemic attendance the smaller attendance numbers allowed for more meaningful, and vulnerable conversations amongst students. Notably, students opened up about their experiences more quickly than previous in person events. When asked 100% of attendees felt the workshop reduced stigma of mental illness, and all reported the workshop increased awareness around mental health. The project will continue as the University of Guelph’s Movies for Mental Health has become a staple of annual mental health programming on campus.