Between 300 and 400 young adults danced the night away last Saturday at Halifax’s second Mind Ball.
The Mind Ball was an opportunity for people to get dressed up, get together, and to let off some steam. The party’s additional purpose was to contribute to destigmatize mental health problems and illness.
“The party definitely meets expectations,” said Nicole Kink who attended the event. “It’s great to get people talking about mental health in a social and less formal context too.”
The Mental Health Commission of Canada reports that about 20 per cent of Canadians live with mental illness and that mental illness continues to be met with widespread negative attitudes.
It also says that these negative perceptions around mental health are one of the main reasons why more than 60 per cent of people with mental health problems or illness won’t seek the help that they need.
Mind Ball organizers Allison Ghosn and Rebecca Singbeil recognize this issue within Halifax.
Ghosn and Singbeil attended various mental health events around Halifax and noticed a pattern.
“It was generally the same group of people at every single event,” says Ghosn.
Singbeil and Ghosn wanted to create a mental health event that would reach a demographic of people who weren’t already engaged in learning about mental health issues.
“We needed an event that people would already want to go to,” said Ghosn who realized that the 18-30 year olds are important to target when it comes to mental health awareness.
The Canadian Mental Health Commission says that 70 per cent of adults with mental illness report that symptoms began in their teens or early 20s.
“So we decided, we’re going to have a party but were going to try to put as many pieces into it as we can that will promote awareness,”said Ghosn.
“Sharing educational facts that contradict mental health myths is the most effective way of reducing stigma among adolescents,” says Lynne Robinson, a mental health expert at Dalhousie University.
“Interacting with people who actually have mental illness is another very useful strategy for people of all ages,” she said referring to an analysis of strategies used to reduce stigma.
Another Halifax blizzard prevented some elements of the party from taking place.
However, multiple local artists who are passionate about mental health did show up to help stimulate conversations and thoughts about the topic.
Ghosn and Singbeil welcomed artists from Atlantic Cirque, Brave Space and Outsider Insight among others.
DJ Zora the Sultan set the musical tone for the party’s busiest spot – the dance floor.
An area called the Mind Lounge was set up away from the dance floor. It had bean bag chairs, bottled water, a quiet atmosphere, peer support, paints, and other mental health resources.
“We want people to get comfortable with mental health, give it an image boost. We wanted an event where people wouldn’t hear mental health and say ‘oh that’s not for me,’” says Ghosn.
“We need to break down the us vs. them perceptions. Everyone has mental health and it is something that everyone needs to take care of, ” she says.
Ghosn and Singbeil have already started imagining possibilities to keep next year’s event interesting.
“I don’t want to give too much away, but we’re thinking of something that might be say, a three day, daytime type of event for next year,” says Ghosn.