On March 23, UVic Peer Helping hosted Share our Voices, Speak our Minds: A Mental Health Showcase. The event invited students to explore mental health and mental illness through an evening of spoken word, poetry, music, visual art, and more.
The free all-ages community event welcomed TEDx speaker and comic Kevin Breel, Victoria Poetry Slam Performer Scott Thompson, alongside various UVic students.
Winnipeg-raised Scott Thompson moved to Victoria in 2010 to pursue improvisation, and quickly fell in love with spoken word during his first week in the city. He replaced Jeremy Loveday as the featured performer for the event.
“[Loveday] felt I was a good fit for the show. He knows the kind of poetry I write, and I’ve written on the subject of mental health several times,” Thompson said in an interview with the Martlet. “I was very quick to accept.”
Having struggled with mental illness himself, Thompson keeps a “tool belt” in mind for dealing with his own struggles. “Any tools we can give to people struggling, students especially, I think would be really helpful for them,” he said.
Between work, internships, and exams, it can be difficult for students to set time aside for themselves. “An entire evening dedicated to mental health and illness is inundating them with support when they may not have been able to [access it] otherwise, and giving them tools,” Thompson said.
The event took place in the Student Union Building’s Vertigo Lounge, and included musical performances by students like Isha Jahromi, Tina and Travis Borsa, and Arwen Ainsley.
As well, Ariel Liu explained her experiences with anxiety and panic attacks, Malaika Lwakila read a rhyming poem listing elements of her life that bring her joy, and Daphne Shaed, who has “tranny cyborg” tattooed on her arm, shared her thoughts regarding stigma on stage.
As society begins to look past the stigmas associated with mental health, optimism remains important, according to Thompson.
“People aren’t talking about it enough, and people aren’t willing to share, or are scared to share, or are embarrassed to share their struggles with it,” he said.
While facing a mental illness episode in the past, Thompson admits, “I would’ve loved an evening like this, where I could’ve gone and been surrounded by people who were either experiencing [mental illnesses] themselves or were open to listening to people who were.”