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Cue the lights, end the stigma

Laing House is hosting a short film screening and panel discussion about mental health

4 min read
caption James Kelly-Wolfe, Stephanie Young and Director Carrie-Ann Boutilier are for their work to be on the big screen.
Katlyn Pettipas
caption James Kelly-Wolfe; Stephanie Young; and Carrie-Ann Boutilier, Director of What Do You Think of Me Now?, one of the short films to be screened on Thursday.
Katlyn Pettipas

Laing House is inviting Halifax to watch movies, have some chats and end misconceptions about mental illness.

Laing House is a drop-in, peer support organization on Barrington Street for people aged 16-29 who have a mental illness. It’s been running since 2001 and offers members a safe space to get advice, participate in monthly activities or to hang out with new and old friends.

On Thursday, Feb. 2, they’ll be screening four short films about mental health. The works are directed, written, filmed and edited by group members.

The films cover different topics that range from the negative side effects of psychiatric medication to fake ‘masks’ that people create when they have a mental illness.

James Kelly-Wolfe is a member of Laing House and did a lot of the camera work for the films. He believes this event is a way to educate the public, while still doing something “against the grain.”

“It’s like an activism thing, but you don’t have to get up and scream,” he said. “I like the art form of it. It’s a good way to edit what you say to everybody, instead of standing there with a bunch of signs and stuff.”

Kelly-Wolfe said the best part of working on these films was learning how to use a camera. Many of the members who worked on the films learned how to shoot and edit videos at Laing House.

Stephanie Young, a filmmaker and community support worker for the organization, has been mentoring and helping members create films for the past two years.

“I work with them more as students then members,” she said. “I take a step back when working with them. I try not to use the equipment or impose my own biases. I let them run with their own ideas.”

Young and Kelly-Wolfe agree that creating these films have brought the group closer together. But Laing House is a community; even people who haven’t worked on the videos are excited for the screening.

“One of our house members is an up-and-coming designer,” said Young. “He was actually really eager to design the poster himself. There’s a lot of eager and motivated individuals ready to get it off the ground.”

Young graduated from NSCAD University and has a background in filmmaking, but she wasn’t always a film mentor. She got involved with Recovery Advocacy Documentary Action Research (RADAR).

RADAR an organization that creates videos about mental illness. The group is made up of academics and filmmakers from Toronto, Montreal and Halifax. They want to teach young people who have a mental illness how to create and share their own stories.

The film organization partnered with Laing House to create the film screening and panel discussion.

Dr. Rob Whitley is a professor of Psychiatry at McGill University and founder of RADAR. He received a grant in 2014 from the Canadian government to create the group, but he’s been making his own mental health videos since 2011.

He’s hoping video screenings, such as this one, will help end stereotypes about people with mental illness.

“I basically formed the group because lots of evidence suggests that video and media is a good way to raise awareness and reduce stigma for mental illness,” he said. “But if you look at the statistics, the media traditionally has not done a very good job; it’s actually perpetuated stigma.”

RADAR has had a public screenings in both Montreal and Toronto. This will be the first one in Halifax.

The event is scheduled to take place from 6-8 p.m. at the Halifax Central Library on Spring Garden Road. After the screening there will be a panel discussion about mental illness, stigma and the filming process.

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