Mental Health Camp 2009 – A proposal

Several years ago, someone whom I love VERY MUCH, someone very close to me, experienced a really long period of depression, not surprisingly, after breaking up with his (now long forgotten) ex-girlfriend. He experienced many of the symptoms of severe depression, including suicidal thoughts. Very happily and luckily, he is not only alive and well but he is thriving and full of happiness now. He was able to break through the depression, and I can’t tell you how happy I am he did.

Beyond the fact that Airdrie, Tod, and Isabella (who were the speakers at the Coping Digitally panel) are all very good friends of mine, I have had a brush with depression not only through my shared experiences with several of my friends (including Tris, who is a dear friend), but also through the very common Seasonal Affective Disorder. During periods of rain (not infrequent in Vancouver), I sometimes (not very often) get all down. And, in case you wanted to know, yes – I have been heartbroken and during that time, I really felt very, very depressed. I came out of it quite quickly, though.

One Thursday last year (November of 2008), I recall being awake at 3 am and feeling incredibly down. I was looking at everything from the perspective of someone who had failed at everything. This, coming from someone who actually has had as much success as I have. But the weather, the fact that it was late at night and the feeling of loneliness all worked me up and I felt like crap. I have thanked Lorraine several times for talking me through and help me break out of it that one time and I will thank her again here. I am grateful that whenever I have felt down, I’ve had my friends there to support me and help me through.

It is rare, very rare that I feel down, but when I do, I am always surrounded by loving people who talk me through it. And therefore, I do have a personal stake in making Mental Health Camp a reality. Not only because several people I love are afflicted with mental illnesses, but also because I am a firm believer that we need to break down the stigma. I admire the bravery and strength of people who speak out about their illness, and I want to help many others speak out.

I am not a mental health professional at all (but Isabella is), but I am a very loving individual and I am good at organizing events, so that’s why I’ve decided to help in any way I can. If you want to jot down ideas and thoughts on the Wiki Page (thanks Isabella for initiating it), please feel free to do so.

Isabella‘s idea of Mental Health Camp is to have a very fluid, organic event. My thought is to have a one day (perhaps on a Saturday) event. I am more than happy to speak to people about sponsorship (mostly food and refreshment sponsorships – I already have an idea of where I would like to hold it). I’ll need volunteers to work the door (registration), help with food set up and stuff like that, but I have learned (from my experience at BarCamp) that the best way to do this is to divide the tasks amongst a LOT of people. Contact me over Twitter or leave a comment or send me an email.

The technical details will be handled by Isabella (e.g. which topics, and so on) – there is a very fertile discussion on her blog already, and on the Wiki page. Add your thoughts too. And if you’d like to volunteer to help with organizing, do let me know!

Related posts:

  1. Mental Health Camp Vancouver 2011: Diversity in Mental Health
  2. Mental Health Camp expanding – you interested?
  3. My Mental Health Camp Vancouver 2010 recap
  4. After a successful Mental Health Camp Vancouver ’09, towards a MHC ’10
  5. Mental Health Camp Vancouver 2009

Comments (23)

Tris HusseyFebruary 22nd, 2009 at 12:06 pm

This is a great idea. It will be a very emotional and intense event. Kudos to you and Isabella.

CrunchyFebruary 22nd, 2009 at 12:14 pm

Fantastsic idea….the internet and blogs have been (I think) one of the best ways for people to get over the stigma and shame of any sort of mental health issue.

I have loved any support I have received and admire all the people who are so open about it all.

emilyFebruary 22nd, 2009 at 12:24 pm

interesting idea. but i don’t see it working for the ones that need the help the most, i see it more as promotional tool for Mental Health professionals. that’s just me though, i’m sure most people will see it as a good thing.

Shane GibsonFebruary 22nd, 2009 at 12:25 pm

I like this idea Raul. I think it would be great to see us all come together like this. This has the potential to help a lot of people move forward in the healing process. All of us at some point have battled with depression, addiction, anxiety, and fear. These have all been stigmatized by the “self-made” person archetype, always smiling and having their !@#$ together. Too many people are afraid to ask for help, or experience great pain as they try to work through it on their own. Is there room in the Camp for topics on Mentoring etc.?

Pete QuilyFebruary 22nd, 2009 at 12:31 pm

I think it’s a good idea. I think while the personal stories will be important, what is probably more important is the interactive component. So having time in each session for discussion/ Q and A is crucial.

So hopefully the sessions will be designed with that in mind to give people a chance to participate and hopefully some myths shattered.

I think it’s a great idea, far too many people buy into stigma about mental health and harm themselves, their children and others because of it.

A Canadian TV station recently did a 5 minute segment on Adult ADHD and they interviewed an ADHD adult but put him behind a protective screen to “hide his identity” and garbled out his voice with some sort of voice scrambler. They made it sound like having ADHD was like being in hiding from the mafia or islamic terrorists. I thought that type of ignorant, stigmatizing dumbass thinking died 20 years ago. Guess not.

I’d be willing to help out with mental health camp.

isabella moriFebruary 22nd, 2009 at 12:31 pm

wow, it’s amazing how this is coming together! i am very moved. raul, you are amazing!

so … i’d like to propose something some time in april. let’s think about a good location, one that feels intimate and private. i can probably get something really nice in roberts creek, but i suspect that’s too far. i’d also like to invite someone from the candian mental health association to participate.

tofufightingFebruary 22nd, 2009 at 12:35 pm

Thanks for getting this topic going Raul… I thought you were exhausted from northern voice! You’re awesome. I too am diagnosed with a mental illness, but I find worse than all the symptoms of it, is the stigma attached to it, and how that has left me feeling even more lonely and helpless.
This topic could easily balloon a thousand different very important and helpful ways, so I’d love to help focus down to something that will be both managable for the organizers and most helpful to those who need help and want to help.
To get to the point where we can talk about one’s mental illness with the same amount of stigma as diabetes, cancer or the common cold would be A-MA-ZING!! And to not have those suffering be extra-punished through the stigma would be life-altering.

AnnieFebruary 22nd, 2009 at 12:45 pm

Very, very nice idea. I’d love to be involved in some “knitterly” way – so often I’ve found a good knit can help gently lead me out of a bad place. I know it sounds so silly, but we all have these “kind passions” that can help us – running, cooking, walking, crafting, singing, etc.

LauraFebruary 22nd, 2009 at 12:53 pm

Raul, I loved the Coping Digitally session and really like this idea to expand it into its own full event. I would like to offer to participate in the organizing committee if you are looking for people to help. Shoot me an email about it… I will check out the wiki page and Isabella’s blog to continue the discussion in the meantime.

In response to Emily’s comment – I don’t think that a Mental Health Camp is intended to serve as a form of therapy for people suffering from mental illness, but rather as a way to get people talking about it. This is the only way to break the stigma associated with mental health issues, and it needs EVERYONE to participate – mental health professionals, patients, and also those who don’t suffer personally from it. We all need to help break down the negative stereotypes by joining the conversation.

[...] Excerpt from: Mental Health Camp 2009 – A offer | [...]

Gillian ShawFebruary 22nd, 2009 at 2:43 pm

I don’t think I know anyone whose life hasn’t been touched by depression yet as Pete and others here have pointed out, it remains a subject of stigma and for some people shame. And I agree with Laura, it doesn’t seem that Coping Digitally is being proposed as therapy but rather as a way to open up more discussion and sharing about an issue that impacts people in many ways. A good proposal and already enthusiastically received, which I guess in itself speaks to the need.

isabella moriFebruary 22nd, 2009 at 3:57 pm

i am so excited by the enthusiastic response!

IMHO, the purpose of mentalhealthcamp would be to continue the discussion of the intersection between social media and mental health. it’s not “therapy for bloggers” :)

Pete QuilyFebruary 22nd, 2009 at 7:00 pm

Agreed Isabella, it shouldn’t be a group therapy project, or a “I just want to vent my pain for 30 minutes straight and make you listen to my story”.

While short individual stories are important, I think it should focus on answering some of the questions you posed on this post.

and focus on how more people could use blogs and social media to get their stories and real information(vs the BS “cure your ___ with our super blue green algae potion/ magic brainwave machine”) out on mental health conditions to reduce stigma.

Maybe even some ideas for practical ways to do mental health awareness and antistigma campaigns around different condition i.e. depression, adhd, substance abuse, OCD say on blogs/twitter/youtube, or people giving some examples of social media campaigns done for mental health conditions.

And show not only the problems but some of the positives of some conditions, as well as examples of people with said conditions who are functioning well.

Sometimes a mental health condition is portrayed as a total curse and those who have it are perpetually doomed to permanant misery and suffering and hopelessness. There are real, tangible, sometimes severe problems with mental health conditions, but there is also hope and it’s important to show the hope too.

People could talk about what specific things they’ve done that have helped them, maybe we could have streams with different conditions so people with those conditions can connect with each other in real life so they can do the same online

gillianFebruary 23rd, 2009 at 12:14 am

I’d like to help out, though I am 100% useless at organizing anything. Grunt work and brilliant insight are more my style.

[...] and fancy tools for accessing and spreading information. To learn more about this initiative, read Mental Health Camp 2009 – A proposal, on Hummingbird604’s [...]

MarkOLM™February 23rd, 2009 at 1:40 pm

This is an interesting idea Raul, kudos. After joining in on your Coping Digitally liveblog from NV this weekend I felt like the conversation was cut off too early, making the need for something like this much greater.

One thing I would like to suggest is reaching out to some of the many community groups that deal with these kinds of issues on a daily basis. I think having them represented at MentalHealthCamp would be a fantastic way to get feedback on their experiences dealing with people in person/phone, and what are some of the many hurdles they encounter. From there, I suggest taking the discussion in a direction of how technology can help these organizations improve their service and accessibility to those in need, what free/cheap resources they have available to them to implement solutions, as well as methods for them to increase public awareness and education.

From my experience, through my girlfriend’s volunteering, I’ve noticed that most programs are underfunded and understaffed to even investigate what all can be done via the web. Much of the volunteering help is needed on the front lines, and there is little, if none, focus on strategies to bring their services and messages to a wider audience. This is where I think this camp can succeed, in opening eyes and ears, and in creating connections, paving the way for increased collaboration amongst groups and leaders in this space (Isabella, Airdrie, Tod, and Pete, etc).

Let me know your thoughts.

Eric ShawFebruary 23rd, 2009 at 4:59 pm

I like the idea a lot. I am a big proponent of anyone who is trying to increase access for people to get help in non-traditional, less confrontational ways. My company and blog talks a lot about this. I would love to know how it goes!

[...] that will deal specifically with the topic.  raul (@hummingbird604 on twitter) already did a post on [...]

Nicole Garton-JonesMarch 3rd, 2009 at 10:27 pm

I think this is a really interesting idea. I have family members with mental illness, and I also deal with these issues often at work as an estate planning lawyer. I’m looking forward to participating.

TStrumpMarch 7th, 2009 at 8:15 pm

What a great idea.
Mental illness has ravaged my family and I also know a few people who are currently suffering with symptoms.
I’d be interesting in volunteering.

TStrump’s last blog post..Should You Prepay Your Funeral Costs?

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[...] Raul’s proposal of Mental Health Camp – many useful comments are also stored here – click here to read that blog post [...]

[...] Health Camp April 25th 12 04 2009 Mental Health Camp is an Unconference around the interaction between social media and mental illness, focused on using [...]

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[...] I spoke at Mental Health Camp last year, I was surrounded by a table of social media types, sermonizing about how mommy blogging [...]

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