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Discussing mental health without words

International organization uses art and movies to raise mental health awareness

Brooke, Max, Macro... Getting to know you.... getting to know all about you...By screening short films in Calgary, Art With Impact is promoting much needed discussions about mental health.

Natalie Daley, the director of Art With Impact Canada, said the organization utilizes art—particularly short film submissions—to spread awareness about mental health without having to say anything explicitly.

“It’s a way to keep the conversation safe and still be able to talk about these things,” said Daley.

On Feb. 4, Art With Impact hosted Movies For Mental Health at ACAD, its first event in Calgary. Several short films were screened and discussions were held afterwards.

“Considering the campus at ACAD is so small, we had a fairly big group of students,” Daley said.

“The films seemed to really hit home with the audience.”

Shantelle Arbic, a photography student at ACAD, said the organization was just what her school needed, and art should be used for social change rather than just selling a product.

“More people would come to this school if there was more art,” said Arbic.

Art With Impact will be hosting another Movies For Mental Health workshop for the public during Mental Health Awareness Week in May.

“In the fall, we hope to offer the program to more schools in the province, as well as come back to ACAD and visit the University of Calgary,” said Daley.

Art With Impact is seeking out films representing Aboriginal and First Nation experiences in an effort to make its film collection and workshops more diverse and inclusive.

Daley said she had strong personal motivations regarding her work. A year ago, she lost a friend to suicide, further deepening her commitment to Art With Impact and its workshops.

Movies For Mental Health was a small but emotional affair. Daley warned the 19 workshop participants ahead of time that the short films may be triggering.

Four short films were shown, each one examining mental health in a unique way. mEAT dealt with eating disorders while Anosognosia defined the term “anosognosia” as a condition where people are unaware they have a disability.

T.J. Heaton, an ACAD student, described his struggles with substance abuse to workshop participants after the films were screened.

Heaton said he started doing drugs when he was 14. He still went to school, but the experience was nevertheless upsetting for his parents.

Alcohol, in particular, made him suicidally depressed at times and he also chipped his tooth once while riding his bike drunk.

“I just put myself into really compromising positions,” he said.

Heaton sobered up after one of his friends died from a heroin overdose and said he had only drunk twice in the last month.

Art With Impact started in the United States and received interest from Canadian schools in late 2014. The organization was connected with ACAD last summer.

“Ultimately, we know that art is an incredibly powerful medium capable of speaking the language of our interior worlds, and we deeply believe in supporting emerging artists,” Daley said.

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