In this month’s Healthy Living Guide we are featuring two East Coast artists who have taken up the fight against the stigma of mental illness and are offering support and solutions in their own communities.
Amelia Curran became a mental health advocate after recognizing the struggling support systems in her own province, and will be joining Unison to present the panel IT’S MENTAL: Advocacy and Survival on Thursday, April 14, part of the East Coast Music Week Conference.
Adam Baldwin is one of the organizers of annual concerts celebrating the life and music of Jay Smith—a friend and band mate who took his own life March 2013—in Jay’s honour, his friends have raised tens of thousands of dollars for Unison and local mental health originations.
Amelia Curran, IT’S MENTAL
Amelia Curran is a JUNO Award-winning singer-songwriter, and the founder of IT’S MENTAL, a grassroots advocacy that offers support to those with mental health issues, advocates for better mental health resources, and hopes to reduce the stigma of mental illness. Visit www.itsmental.ca.
What made you want to speak up through This Video and IT’S MENTAL?
I had only intended to share some lived experience, to add my small part to the growing conversation and join the community, but discussions with friends in the St. John’s NL branch of the Canada Mental Health Association shed some harsh light on our mental health care services that I had not previously been exposed to. I met people who are exhausted, trying to keep a broken system going against all odds. Frankly, I became angry.
Has anything surprised you about the way people responded? Either at home or while you’re on tour?
Everything has surprised me. I had entirely underestimated the reach and the value of speaking out. My email and social media inboxes flooded overnight with the online community that reached out to welcome me and I can tell you – the advocacy community is strong, expanding, and ready for change.
What’s coming up for IT’S MENTAL?
We are launching the great t-shirt campaign. Throughout the rest of the year we’ll be popping up across the country and giving our IT’S MENTAL shirts away for free, encouraging people to flood social media with that simple phrase. It’s about visibility – we are building an army and we are building solutions.
What advice would you give to someone who wants to speak up—maybe for the first time—and challenge the silence or stigma in his or her own life and community?
I consider it a responsibility. We have always had to advocate for ourselves in a care system that doesn’t know what to do with us – and we must extend that sense of compassion and stand up for one another. Those who speak out about mental illness and addictions will find themselves a part of an inspired community. These are people who practically suffer from empathy, and these are the people who will change the world.
Celebrating Jay Smith
2016 marks the third year since the passing of Jay Smith, solo artist and guitarist in Matt Mays’ Band. In the years since, his friends have organized events in Halifax and Sydney, NS—and even in Vancouver BC—to raise funds for non-profits that provide support to people suffering with mental illness.
“Jay was the best. He was an incessant jokester, loved chicken wings and bad food. A great guy to hang out with late at night… He was a fun guy, but he was in rough shape and we were ill equipped to deal with someone who was really struggling like he was. That is the underlying thing with these shows” Said Adam Baldwin, in a recent interview with Global News.
“I don’t hesitate at all to use the word crisis. There is a mental health crisis in this province, in this country, and in my business. That is the message we’re trying to get out there.”
photo: Joel Plaskett & the Halifax All Stars
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