Wednesday, January 28th 2015, The Kingston New Mentality had 4 individual presentations planned for Bell Let’s Talk Day!
We were trying something we had never done before, working with students from grades 1-12 during the afternoon and then switching gears by presenting for last year students in the teacher’s college at Queens. We were invited to Quintilian Private School (for grades 1 through 12) by one of our Facilitators, Beth, as she is currently doing her placement for college there. Beth had started the conversation surrounding children and youth mental health and the stigma associated with mental illness by handing out Bell Let’s Talk bracelets to the Quintilian students the week before January 28th. We had three presentations at Quintilian: 55 minute presentation to grades 6-12, 20 minute presentation with grades 3-5, and a 20 minute presentation with grades 1-3.
Group members arrived at our designated meeting area at approximately 11am to go over schedules, personal stories, and to address any concerns from members. We were faced with our first obstacle: some members being sick or unable to come. We were fortunate enough to have some new volunteers the night before who we were able to bring in the last minute.
Our first presentation went off without a hitch! We even tried out a skit for the first time, using it to explain stigma instead of trying to come up with words to define it. We had one member, Hannah, who was telling her story for the first time and did a fabulous job! We encountered our third obstacle of the day, our presentation didn’t take nearly as long as we wanted so we were left with a solid 20 minutes to fill. We were saved by a Quintilian teacher who suggested we break into smaller groups to talk more intimately about the subjects discussed. These breakout groups were great for NM members to become more engaged with audience members and hopefully made more of a personal connection with them as well. When brought back as a larger group we had amazingly brave students comment on the fact that they do take medication and or see a counselor and it’s O.K. and most importantly it’s O.K. to talk about! We were making a difference!
Our momentum for the day sped up until we encountered our fourth obstacle in between presentations (20 minute recess): half of our primary audience went home sick during gym. After discussing with staff members and making sure NM members were alright with a change, we decided to not do a presentation in the primary class (where we were going to utilize the Iris the Dragon book series), and would make our lower elementary class presentation 45 minutes long instead of 20 minutes. In order to do that, we had 3 people tell their stories instead of 1 and incorporated icebreakers such as where the wind blows and the line game. Because we had such incredible new mentality members, we were able to be flexible without too much anxiety or confusion. We focused this presentation more on personal stories and coping strategies then stigma itself. The audience was in total attention during our stories and enjoyed themselves during our activities. Again, at the end of the presentation when asked for questions or comments, we had multiple brave students comment on the fact that they take medication for ADHD and liked the coping strategies we had showed them. Overall, our experience at Quintilian was fantastic and we were so grateful to have been invited!
With only 30 minutes between presentations, we were quickly off to our next presentation at Duncan McArthur Hall on Queens Campus. We had one more NM member join us, as well as our Adult Ally, Tammy Halladay. Fifth obstacle: one of our members wasn’t feeling well but after some communication and food searching we were able to help her out with time to rest before we started. We started this presentation unlike most of our others, with a poem written by a former NM member, Pauline, read out line by line by NM presenters. We were awarded by quite the applause from audience members and our final presentation had begun! Our first personal story brought tears to audiences eyes with powerful words from Jessica. We were faced with our sixth, and final obstacle of the day: Our 10 minute video decided to work without sound, so after some awkward moments of silence and struggling with the technology in the classroom we decided to scrap the video and instead tell another, unplanned, personal story. Again, every single group member rose to the occasion when flexibility was needed, which can be difficult for any presenter, skilled or not. We were able to make more audience members cry with each story that passed, which may I say is not our intent of telling our stories but it is nice to know that people are listening and genuinely engaged in what we were saying. After a very busy day, 7 hours, 3 presentations, and 6 obstacles that could have affected us negatively, we were rewarded with the high of positive praise, personal accomplishment, and the idea that maybe society is in fact, changing to have a new mentality.
— Kingston New Mentality Group