“We do not believe in ourselves until someone reveals that deep inside us something is valuable, worth listening to, worthy of our trust, sacred to our touch. Once we believe in ourselves we can risk curiosity, wonder, spontaneous delight or any experience that reveals the human spirit.”
With the epidemic of anxiety and depression on campuses across Canada, the University of Manitoba is no exemption. With this in mind, Telus funded a student-initiated project endorsed by the PERKS Council of Kinesiology and Recreation Management to explore using the arts for mental health and peer support.
A project team led by students Ava Glesby, Gabby Desroches, Elly Coodin, senior instructor Colleen Plumton and Red Threads founder Dana Rungay was formed. As word of the project spread, a Masters student from the Faculty of Social Work, Lauren Barker, joined the team. A two day training in Playback Theatre skills was held February 29-March 1, 2020. It was a challenge for students overwhelmed with demands on their time for assignments, tests, jobs plus all the other commitments in their lives to find the time just for themselves and their own well being. Thankfully, Tim Horton’s generously donated coffee for all the training days and performances.
Through laughter and tears, students shared their stories of stresses, anxieties, nervousness, grief and anger that they were carrying. It became apparent over our two days together that the creative and constructive expression of significant emotions in a safe place is still a rare opportunity these days.
A public performances was held on March 2. After watching the performance of “I’m Fine”, one of the participants said smiling, “its amazing how seeing your feelings played back lets them move on.” A second performance for the Community Service Learning class was held on March 3. Even with this sensitive and stigma-ridden theme students courageously spoke up to speak of their life experiences of being touched by mental health issues.
Thank you so much for bringing this incredible initiative to our school. I have heard so many positive things about it!! We did something amazing, and it will only continue to grow and change/impact more lives :)
The deep listening and unconditional positive regard of Red Threads facilitators and performers created a space of safety for the students at the University of Manitoba to let who they are and what they are coping come out and play. The laughter and tears of sharing honest moments from lived experience is truly a gift to us all.
“Whenever you think or you believe or you know, you're a lot of other people: but the moment you feel, you're nobody-but-yourself.”