My Mental Health Camp Vancouver 2010 recap
My Mom left this morning (she went back to Mexico) which means that I am literally back to work and hitting the ground running. The first thing I wanted to do was check back on my client work, on my research and teaching, and the various things I have to deal with as July draws to an end.
A couple of days ago, my good friend and co-organizer of Mental Health Camp Vancouver 2010 posted her second recap of MHCYVR10 (you can read tweets associated with the hashtag #mhcyvr10 here). Isabella is on her way to a much deserved holiday and thus, I am posting this recap from my own personal viewpoint, as Isabella did. Neither of us has vetted each other’s posts. We love and care for each other too much to do such a thing. So what you will be reading from here until the end of the post is 100% my viewpoint and nobody else’s.
I had my Mom visiting me for a full month, starting June 23rd. This meant that I had to divide my attention into my own client work (something I had committed to do already), my social media commitments (which I guess in hindsight I could have skipped) and organizing Mental Health Camp Vancouver 2010 (for short, MHC) AND trying to spend time with my mother, someone I see once a year and one of the people I love the most in this world. So, it was very challenging.
I think in hindsight I committed a mistake in taking a few days for holiday and a writing retreat before MHC happened. I should have just stayed and dealt with (as many people from the online community may have seen) some ridiculous drama that happened around Isabella and my decision’s in the realm of speaker selection. I should have just stayed in Vancouver and deal with it. But on the other hand, how could I have known that all this drama was about to be unleashed? Seriously, people. Grow up and get a grip.
I lost sleep for about five days in a row, had problems eating and had to mask this turmoil in order to make sure that my Mom wouldn’t worry about my wellbeing. You’ll see, in order to organize a conference on mental health and social media, the first thing I needed was to stay mentally sane and not let anything cripple me. In hindsight, having my Mom here was actually a blessing. She is my rock and my best friend and I don’t think I would have survived the amount of stress that organizing MHC represented had my Mom not been here to be my sounding board.
I wouldn’t have been able to organize MHC without the strength and courage of the presenters who shared their stories, who opened themselves and, in sharing their experiences, opened the eyes of many people. These brave folks were in some cases the target of nasty trolls, something that added to my and Isabella’s levels of stress. But as Karen Quinn Fung tweeted, if we are being attacked, then that means that there is still stigma attached to speaking out about mental health, and that our work is valuable.
I still feel responsible and horribly bad about the organizational glitches, and as Isabella highlighted, the fact that we had to rectify the introduction of speakers bit after Steff talked to us (and I will very publicly apologize to Steff for letting her down – I should have been more on the ball in assigning volunteers to introductions of speakers). Isabella and I fixed this quickly, and as she mentioned, Kemp Edmonds, Sue MacDonald and our other volunteers (including and thanks so much to Vanessa Chu, Minna Van, Ganesh Swami, Jay Catalan, our amazing PR and Media Concierge Cathy Browne, and Aidan Scott). My sanity would have been very compromised had our volunteers not stepped up to the task. From the bottom of my heart, THANK YOU!
EDIT - In my haste to get all of this out of my chest, I neglected to mention Cheryl (@cwcheeks), a dear friend, and wonderful woman who gave her all to make Mental Health Camp Vancouver 2010 a success. She became engaged as a volunteer from the get-go, from the early stages of planning, and gave me and Isabella much needed support and respite. And more than anything, she gave us a lot of her seemingly endless supply of love. Cheryl, thank you, thank you, THANK YOU SO MUCH.
Cathy Browne deserves thanks in and of her own. Cathy was ill that weekend and yet she made it to MHC, even with swollen limbs and her own health compromised. Thank you, Cathy, doesn’t even cut it – I am forever eternally grateful! And thanks for the coverage we got and for coordinating with Trevor Boudreau and Michael Allison from Wilcox PR to further our message. Trevor, you know how much I appreciate you taking this on and bringing Michael along for the ride, and to Erin McConnell and Mat Wilcox for supporting your efforts in helping us.
The night before MHC happened, I was checking our MHC blog. I noticed a negative comment against me, saying that the only reason I organize charitable events is for my own popularity. In normal circumstances (e.g. without stress, and not feeling overwhelmed), I would have acted according to what my good friend Lorraine Murphy has taught me in Troll Management 101: Ignore the trolls. I wasn’t ready to deal with this (I had too much to deal with already, had lost sleep, was under extreme pressure to deliver a flawless conference), so I unapproved the comment. In hindsight, I should have let it slide, but I am human and I have only so much energy to deal with the crap that social media sometimes throws at me. For all the happiness and wonderful friends social media has brought me, it has also given me the exposure that makes people want to throw nasty comments at me. Oh well, the nature of the beast. I am an academic, I have taken worse (and better founded) criticism than “you’re only doing it for the fame”. And survived it.
So, by the time you’ve read this far (950 words in), you probably think “wow, sounds like a rough ride… are you ever going to do it again? Did you have a good time? Did you enjoy the conference? Was it worth it, all the hard work?. And the answer to all of those questions is, without a doubt, a resounding YES. Mental Health Camp Vancouver 2010 was a very successful conference, and I would (and will) do it all over again.
And you know why? Because as my good friend Airdrie (the woman who inspired me and Isabella to launch the first-ever Mental Health Camp) put it – we need to think about the kids. We need to think about ways to break down the stigma so that our kids (and the kids we teach, those of us who are educators) don’t have to face what we faced. What some of our presenters faced.
Michael Schratter, the popular journalist for 24 Hours is embarking on August 1st on a cross-continental bike ride (Ride Don’t Hide) to raise funds for the Canadian Mental Health Association. To de-stigmatize mental health. He spoke out, and he spoke at MHC. Steff and Steven and Terra and Catherine and Michael and Aidan all spoke from the heart about their stories and the challenges they have faced. Michelle Clasius from Covenant House shared her story. Jay Peachy and a number of other presenters from the Gallery Gachet Collective shared art and music for healing. We had wonderful speakers, presenters, performers. Mental Health Camp Vancouver 2010 was amazing. And the general perception of attendees and presenters was that it had been amazing.
And that’s all I need.
That’s all I need to go again next year through the pains of organizing a conference like Mental Health Camp Vancouver 2010. Because if MHC helped at least ONE person speak out.
If it helped ONE person change his/her view towards mental illness.
If it helped spread a message of love instead of a message of hate.
If it helped rebuild the confidence of at least ONE person afflicted with mental illness, reassuring him or her that she or he is not alone.
Then we succeeded. And I feel confident to say that we did, indeed succeed.
To all of our sponsors (Cosmic Blend, Developmental Disabilities Association, Lynne UX, FreelanceCamp Vancouver 2010, Wilcox PR, MarketWire, Institute for Resources, Environment and Sustainability at The University of British Columbia and I hope I am not forgetting anyone), thanks for helping us make this possible.
To the presenters: YOU RULE. Thank you SO much for being brave and sharing your stories, which we hope will help others in turn. You inspire me to continue doing the work I do.
To my co-organizer: Isabella, you push me always to be better and I could not have asked for a better friend to organize this conference with. I love you.
To my volunteers: THANK YOU – you made me feel that I could accomplish this indeed. I don’t know how I can pay you back but I will find a way.
And to my Mom: thank you for keeping me sane at a moment in my life when I probably would have been shattered to pieces. You are my rock, my inspiration and my role model. When I grow up I aspire to be a bit like you.
UPDATE – Here are links to several of the recaps of Mental Health Camp Vancouver 2010 I found.
Michelle Clasius (Covenant House)
Steven Schwartz (The Emperor Has No Toque)
Aidan Scott (Kidsideration)
Steffani Cameron (The Cunting Linguist)
Katana Barnett (Katanaville)
Ashley Hunking (Abstracting Minds)
Michael Schratter (Ride Don’t Hide)
Isabella did another recap on her blog of the links she found. You can check more there.