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Graphic Novel Group, October 2017
mindyourmind, Crazy About Mental Health and two writers, Chris and Sean of Changing Minds worked with young people from the London, ON area: Erin, Victoria, Cayden, Kai, Dan, Emma, Brooke, Owen, Willy and youth co-facilitator, Maggie.
Crazy About Mental Health, a group local to London, ON had an idea that they wanted to create projects that help disrupt and de-stigmatize people’s perceptions of mental illness in order to make change. Christopher Sweeney and Sean Donaghey, two writers from the Toronto area who are published graphic novelists, saw that mental health was something they wanted to explore in their next series because the resources they've encountered about this topic seemed “limited and diffused”:
“It seemed to me that using graphic novels to tell engaging stories featuring youth protagonists who happen to also have mental health challenges could check a lot of boxes for me. The more I looked into it the more excited I grew and more convinced that this route could be used to help not only youth but also those who care about them (parents, friends, siblings, teachers, social and health workers etc..) who are seeking a way to talk about these issues with the youth in a normalizing way.” - C. Sweeney
mindyourmind saw a connection between these two groups and together, we decided that the best way to move the project forward was to involve youth in the co-creation of the story concepts.
mindyourmind recruited a group of interested and passionate young people. We worked over the course of a weekend Design Studio to brainstorm, journal, dramatize and draw out what information was important, what stories we should tell and how they should be told. Chris and Sean participated in the weekend, alongside Maggie (our youth co-facilitator and resident Graphic Novel expert/superfan) and a group of talented, intelligent and creative young people. Amazing weekend. Chris and Sean left that design Studio with enough material for 10 stories (!), and are using this material to guide the creation of the first novel.
Mental health is a tricky and topic to understand and tackle, and we know that stories can be a powerful tool in getting information across in a way that is nuanced and entertaining. Graphic Novels also offer an additional tool, beautiful visuals, to reach a broader audience. Graphic novels are increasingly being used in classrooms by teachers who want to engage and enhance learning with their students in a new way. Using the Graphic Novel format to tell stories about young people having real struggles is a way to engage students in a topic that can be hard to tackle, in a way that is accessible and informative.
Since this Design Studio was all about producing a Graphic Novel the participants answered two questions: why'd you get involved and fave fictional character
Why: (because of) Everything that we’ve done so far: AKA: have fun and learn
Character: Rin Okummura from Blue Exorcist and Allen Walker from D.Gray-man
Why: Share my side of fighting illness.
Why: To get out of my comfort zone and express my ideas
Character: Wirt from Over the Garden Wall
Why: To get some volunteer hour, meet new people and have a great experience.
Character: Rick Sanchez
Why: I am an aspiring writer.
Character: Elphaba from Wicked Incarnation
Why: I am an aspiring writer and I want to be more involved in advocating for mental health.
Character: Harley Quinn, Miklaus Mikaelson, Emma Carstairs, Alexander Hamilton, Evan Hansen, Magnus Bane
Why: I am interested in mental health and thought my past experiences with it would be helpful.
Character: Bruce Banner
Why: To bolster my CV.
Character: Eric Bittle, Star Lord, Nomi from Sense 8
Why: I really enjoy mental health advocacy and comic book writing. I also like spending time with anyone who shares interests with me.
Character: Kirby from Smash Bros, Zelda, Storm from X Men, Thor from Avengers
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