Written by: T.A.M.A. Founders Mathilda Stock and Audrey Irenheard.
Photos: by Mackenzie Ried, Mathilda Stock and Glenn Novak.
Website: bit.ly/teensformentalawareness or follow them in IG @teensformentalawareness.
On March 9th 2020, a youth-led initiative called Teens Advocating for Mental Awareness (T.A.M.A.) launched their first event, an art gallery and sale by the name of Art ‘n Mind.
The goal of Art ‘n Mind was to encourage conversations surrounding Ontario’s mental health landscape, while also supporting young artists and raising money for local mental health services.
Opening conversations about mental health awareness and challenging the stigma surrounding mental illnesses is extremely important on a global scale. According to cmho.ca in Ontario, 63% of youth believe the stigma surrounding mental health is the reason youth chose not to reach out and seek help. This statistic illustrates the social pressures placed on youth and is especially jarring when taking into account that 3.2 million Canadian youth between 12 and 19 are at risk for developing depression (camh.ca). Additionally, mental health care in Ontario is underfunded by about $1.5 billion (camh.ca), making it very inaccessible for many individuals.
When Audrey Irenheard, Mathilda Stock, and Gabe Moses started to research the extent of this, specifically in Ontario, they chose to start an organization together to combat this pertinent issue. They created Teens Advocating for Mental Awareness, T.A.M.A., in October of 2019.
They reached the decision for their first fundraiser to occur in the form of an art gallery, due to the accessible nature of visual arts, as well as the emotional outlet this discipline offers. A decision to team up with and fundraise for Skylark Youth, Children and Families, was met because Skylark offers free mental health walk-in services for youth under 26, which do not require a health card or appointment. Leah Kosowan from Skylark explains, “The money raised by the youth organizing Art ‘n Mind goes directly to support young people and their families who access these free services. The initiative shown by Mathilda, Audrey, and Gabe to make this event happen is truly inspiring and we are lucky to get to work with them. We sincerely appreciate them for taking the time to make a tremendous impact on many lives and futures."
With the goal to fund 15 hours of free mental health services, the T.A.M.A. Team started to search for a gallery. They were met with endless support from Artscape Youngplace in Toronto, and after around six months of hard work, outreach, marketing, and networking, Art ‘n Mind finally became a reality. The teens were extremely happy with the outcome of Art ‘n Mind: The show featured over 90 pieces from youth artists between 12-19 of different backgrounds, and the reception on March 9th was attended by over seventy people. Over the week-long event, T.A.M.A. managed to raise $2000 through art sales - half of which was returned to the youth artists who contributed to the gallery - and $500 through donations, totalling fifteen hours of free mental health services.
The support for mental health and youth artists that the T.A.M.A. team saw not only during the week of Art ‘n Mind, but also throughout the planning of the event has genuinely inspired Audrey, Mathilda, and Gabe, and they are excited to continue to strive for a brighter, de-stigmatized and more accessible future for mental health awareness and services in Ontario.