The National Youth Action Council (NYAC), a part of the Centre for Addictions and Mental Health (CAMH), is a group of young Canadians working together on projects related to youth mental health.
NYAC, in partnership with Workman Arts, first launched the pilot project “If You Ask Me” in 2017 as a part of the Rendezvous with Madness Film Festival. Through this project, young artists were invited to create short films inspired by their experience with mental illness. NYAC staff tell us that, “the success of the 2017 screening inspired us to continue and expand the program for the 2018 festival”.
In 2018, with their first ArtReach grant in hand, the If You Ask Me project again participated in the Rendezvous with Madness Film Festival. However more than simply showcasing the films by youth, the NYAC team felt it was important to provide concrete mentorship opportunities where they would be able to positively impact young film makers and help them improve upon existing works or create new works. As a result, this year’s program offered professional training to 15 young artists as well as mentorship provided by experienced filmmakers through their collaboration with Workman Arts.
And with such a strong program, it’s no surprise that all was well received by youth participants and community members alike. NYAC staff note that “we have had teachers reach out to us about bringing the films into their classrooms as a way to talk about mental health issues with their students. Those in attendance at the screening spoke highly of the films as well as how open and honest the filmmakers were in their work and in the post-show Q&A. Many youth who heard about the project were interested in learning more and becoming involved in the future”. The NYAC team also tells us that the program, “has impacted youth in a substantially positive way by providing valuable skills and opportunities for them to take their voices and their struggles, and address it through film. Ultimately, it provided the opportunity to empower voices and stories that would otherwise go left unsaid”.
Through their ArtReach grant, the project’s only source of monetary support, NYAC was able to directly engage and train participants across Canada, hire artist-mentors, hire a youth coordinator to support the program, and connect with a larger group of youth organizers who were carrying out similar projects. Team members Joshua, Cara, and Erum also tell us that receiving this grant helped support their own professional development as project leaders, from developing skills in arts administration to program coordination to better understanding the role of mentor and all that this entails when working with young filmmakers.
So what’s next for the If You Ask Me project? NYAC tells us that they, “would love to continue to run the program based off of its success. Continuing to offer mentorship for more youth and continued mentorship for youth who have participated in the past. If we are able to increase funding, we may be able to create more leadership positions where youth who have completed the program, can enter into mentorship roles and get paid for their support”.
Learn more about the National Youth Action Council here!