A group of young people in Sarnia and Lambton County will unveil their latest project in early May as part of Mental Health Week — and an ongoing effort to normalize conversations around mental health.
Members of the community outreach group Voices of Youth spent Monday evening tag-teaming a six-panel mural with Indigenous youth, one that will soon stand in Point Edward near the old Balmoral Hotel. The mural is intended to start a conversation around mental health, youth with the committee said – well-suited to kick off Mental Health Week in early May.
The youth committee is still relatively new, spearheaded by young community volunteers who want to make a positive change in Sarnia and Lambton County. Before she helped start the ground, current member Lindsay Kirkland said she longed for a local committee just like Voices of Youth.
Kirkland hopes the mural inspires other people to share their stories.
“I feel like such a proud mom,” Kirkland said. “I know when it’s unveiled I’m going to be a mess and a half. …It’s so cool because, as an eight-year-old who struggled (with mental health) and didn’t know I was struggling until I spoke about it, … it just makes me so happy to see other kids out here. I’m so proud.”
“I hope people (are encouraged) to get help with mental health,” added Ashley Toulouse, a student at Great Lakes secondary school.
The mural will incorporate Indigenous symbols, with help from people like White Lightning Clark. Recently involved in the annual Lambton College powwow, Clark said he appreciates an increased appreciation and respect for Indigenous culture in schools and high-traffic areas like Point Edward.
“Mainly for me, I like the fact that there is a little First Nations cultural representation on it,” Clark said. “What matters to me is there is some representation. What that really gives out is an overall sense of community (concerning) mental health. It doesn’t matter what heritage you’re from.”
The mural will be unveiled Monday, May 6. At that time – and throughout the week – people are invited out to the Michigan Avenue location to stand in the mural, take pictures of each other, and post those pictures online to spark a conversation around mental health.
“We are a proud community that can be here for each other. We just need to start the conversation,” Paige LaPier, a student from St. Patrick’s Catholic high school, said. “Listen to each other, be kind to one another.”
“I want people to look at mental health in a positive way, and not to be afraid to talk about it,” Janessa Labadie, a high school student from Petrolia, added.