Week 1 (June 26, 2008)
Well, on Thursday we had our very first teleconference for the nationwide Get Real project. 15 people from across Canada crowded one conference call in order to introduce themselves and get an idea of where the project would be going. It sounds chaotic, but everything went according to plan— facilitators let us know when it would be our turn to speak so that there would not be fifteen people talking at once, which is hard enough to manage when you can see everyone else’s faces, and downright impossible in a phone conference.
I think the most inspiring part of the project was getting to meet some of the amazing people. One person works with native youth who abuse solvents, another is a teacher in a one room schoolhouse way up north, and a lot of my colleagues have already been trained to work in crisis centers in their mid teens. I am inspired by these people. For example, I have always wondered what it would be like to explore the North—though a lot of my friends want to explore some of the exotic parts of other countries, I am more drawn to places in Canada that exist outside of Montreal. I have given serious thought to going up North with the understanding that I might not necessarily be accepted with open arms just because I am eager and ready to explore.
Montreal is a city informed by a laid-back, party-loving French attitude. The drinking age, 18, is often interpreted as more of a suggestion, and the best thing about Montreal is its multicultural, accepting community. Montreal must house people from every country in the world; there is a thriving community of Greeks, Jewish people, queers, Arabs, afro-carribeans, Francophones, Anglophones, artists, students, South Asians, East Asians, and more. Though some towns in Quebec are conservative, Catholic, and 98% French, Montreal is not like that at all. Living in a place like this makes me open and receptive to people from all walks of life, but it also makes me forget what it is like to live in a place that is more homogenous. I take it for granted that I should be accepted for who I am, and that I should be able to start a mental health advocacy group on my University campus with a great deal of support from the thriving student activist community. Though mental health is a largely unexplored movement, plenty of people are beginning to talk positively about mental health advocacy where I’m from. I’m active, I’m busy, but I feel like I’m not getting the whole picture.
Maybe there exists a place where struggling with mental health issues is a lot more complicated, where youth don’t get access to the best treatments and psychiatrists from of the best research hospitals in Canada. I can’t begin to understand what it is like living anywhere in Canada besides Montreal, but I’m ready to get real and I can’t wait to work with my teammates.
Written by Get Real NationWide participant, Iris, 20, Quebec