I came upon this six-minute TED talk by Joshua Walters. He is a comedian, poet, educator and performer who incorporates elements of spoken word and beatbox into his shows in a mash-up of comedy, intimate reflection and unpredictable antics. In 2002, Walters co-founded the DBSA (Depression Bipolar Support Alliance) Young Adults Chapter in San Francisco, one of the few support groups specifically for mentally ill young adults in the USA. As a facilitator, Walters uses humor to re-frame mental illness as a positive. He is a mental health educator and advocate.
As I watched Joshua speak, it was clear to me that he’s lived it, is living it and that he’s learning his way through it. I thought of Right from the Start (RftS) a pilot project in place from 2008 – 2011 in the district’s elementary schools to promote a positive and realistic view of mental health.
What was the impact of RftS? The mental health practices employed by the team emphasized life-long wellness. By seeking to dispel the stigma around mental health issues, dialogues began. Kids – and adults – found help by opening up. The data gathered showed the tremendous value and need for this kind of resource. The goal of strengthening each child’s resiliency taught the students that they are tougher than they dreamed. The unanticipated outcome was the profound benefits realized by everyone else beyond the students. The pilot project is now complete but funding has been secured for the next incarnation. It will look a little different but there will still be strong support for the sound mental health of children.
Because there has to be a next stage. Look at these statistics from the Canadian Mental Health Association:
- Surpassed only by injuries, mental disorders in youth are ranked as the second highest hospital care expenditure in Canada.
- In Canada, only 1 out of 5 children who need mental health services receives them.
I am grateful that – so far – I am one of the lucky ones “just crazy enough”, as Joshua Walters says. I never feel luckier than when trying to bowl for the strike at the corner of 8th and 7th, under a waning moon with the first rays of the sun lasering distant peaks.