Mental health. It is often a difficult subject to broach, compounded by centuries of stigma that still affect the way we view and talk about mental health as a whole. Normalizing the conversation and correcting misinformation and misunderstanding about the topic is the first step towards viewing mental health in the same way we consider physical health. Providing students with a safe, low-stress way to begin to understand and prioritize their own mental well-being is a great way to give the next generation the tools to talk about their emotions, feelings, and stresses to enable them to develop resiliency, coping strategies, and the ability to ask for help without fear or shame when they need it.

WP Puppet Theatre developed the View from the Inside workshop that encourages discussion about mental health through the creation, exhibition and performance of a self-reflective masks. Through the support of donors, EducationMatters has been able to provide two Calgary Board of Education (CBE) schools with funding for this workshop. This gave students the opportunity to express challenges with their own mental health through performing/fine arts.

“It’s like art therapy,” says Sierra, a student from Sir Wilfrid Laurier School. “While we are painting the masks, we’re talking about mental illness and stuff that can affect our lives.”

“The one thing that surprised me about this workshop is finding out that there are so much people like me!” says Sehrish, a student from Wilfrid Laurier School. “At first I thought that no one wanted to be my friend because I was just weird. But then I met all these new people who are just amazing!”

The students were then put to the test of presenting their own, personal monologues with their personalized painted masks in their hands, in front of a group of classmates, friends, teachers and strangers. Not only did they exude confidence, they were courageous enough to share some of their most personal, internalized thoughts and feelings.

“The kids were really nervous about presenting [their monologues in front of an audience]. But once they got up in front of the audience, they did an amazing job of delivering it, and just showing what they gained from the workshop and what they learned about themselves!” says Luke Couper, Teacher at Sir Wilfrid Laurier School.

Due to the overall success of the workshop, EducationMatters is working hard to raise funds to provide more CBE students the opportunity to take part. With your help, we can continue building awareness on mental health within schools, tackle some of the issues that students face on a daily basis, and begin to change the way we view and treat mental health challenges in our community.