Video contest promotes youth mental health awareness

Ottawa’s Youth Services Bureau is promoting this region’s part in a province-wide video contest to promote youth mental health awareness.

In preparation for Children’s Mental Health Week, May 3-9, the contest calls on Ontario’s young people to get creative and help reduce the stigma surrounding mental health issues. 

Toronto-based Children’s Mental Health Ontario is organizing the video contest, called Change the View. Ontario youth are invited to enter a two-minute video production for a chance to win $1,500.

The youth bureau is working to get Ottawa-area youth involved, through the use of social media and encouraging teachers to promote the contest as part of their curriculum. 

The bureau estimates that nearly one in five Ontario children under the age of 19 experiences a mental, emotional or behavioural disorder that is severe enough to seriously affect their daily functioning at home, school or within the community. 

Christine Pelletier, communications manager for Children’s Mental Health Ontario, is confident that the stigma around mental health is slowly breaking down.

“While the way we talk about mental illness still has a way to go, the stigmas surrounding it – such as its equation with “weirdness” or “weakness” – are starting to break down,” she says.

Children’s Mental Health Week is primarily about increasing awareness, and decreasing stigma – but it also aims to help children understand that help is available, at centres such as the Youth Services Bureau.

A statement from the bureau urges youth to seek the proper help they require.

“We are not here to judge, we are here to understand and to help you work through any issues or difficulties you are experiencing that may be affecting your life and your emotional well-being”, the bureau states.

Last year’s winning video entry was a huge success – after it went viral on social media sites. The creator of the winning entry, titled Beauty behind Becca, Natasha Boshoff, based her video on Toronto high school classmate Becca, who suffers from Tourette’s, a syndrome involving impulsive verbal outburst, Obsessive-compulsive disorder, pervasive developmental disorder and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity disorder.

Boshoff said she was proud of her efforts.

“I loved representing Becca in a different light, and focusing on her unique personality aside from her mental illness,” she says. 

“It really created an awareness within our school. And I’m really impressed with how many people viewed the video online, and responded with openness to the issue,” she adds.

Boshoff was made aware of the contest by a teacher, who encouraged her to enter, and she then created the video within two days.

Pelletier says there are numerous benefits to teachers incorporating the contest into their courses.

“Both students and teachers can learn about mental health and addictions, and the more educated we are on the subject, the more capable we are to reach out for support,” she says. “There should be no shame in talking about mental health issues. The more we talk about this, the more we reduce the associated shame and stigma.”

The Youth Services Bureau operates a walk-in clinic on Bank Street every Tuesday and Thursday. It is promoting the video contest via Twitter and provides link to the contest’s official page.

Entries close April 9, and the winning videos are scheduled to be announced during Children’s Mental Health Week.