Youth mental health takes centre stage
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Youth mental health takes centre stage

CxViolet of The New People. [Submitted]

There’s music on tap at an Elora concert this weekend, but there’s also a focus on mental health issues.

Proceeds from the concert at GrandWay Events Centre from 3-11 p.m. on Saturday (July 2) will go towards The Grove Youth Mental Wellness Hubs, which provides a wide array of programs for youth aged 12-26. The grove has locations in Fergus, Erin, Palmerston and at the University of Guelph and is run in partnership with the Canadian Mental Health Association of Waterloo-Wellington. There are 22 youth wellness hubs run by CMHA across Ontario.

The concert lineup features popular Canadian talent, including the Juno award-winning alternative rock band Dear Rouge, Danny Michel and JESSIA, as well as local artists The New People, SHEBAD and Chelsie Popp.

Alan Doyle, lead singer of the Canadian folk-rock band Great Big Sea, will give a video performance featuring an original song in collaboration with local youth. 

“CMHA has seen a significant increase in the need for mental health support across all of our communities across all age groups, but youth in particular,” said Grove chief development officer Jeff Hoffman.

“They’ve seen things like their child psychology stream increase in volume by 96 per cent, from the pre-COVID volumes. They’re seeing family support increased by 56 per cent from where it was prior to COVID-19. CMHA has seen the overall caseload grow by 40 per cent,” he explained.

CMHA Waterloo-Wellington has seen calls to their 24/7 support line increase from 3,500 calls a month to 6,500 calls a month.

“Across the spectrum, across all of our communities, there is a real mental health crisis happening across all age groups and in particular for youth,” he said. 

Hoffman described the Grove as a one-stop shop for youth wellness. 

“While they’re at the hub, they’ve got access to over 30 different youth service organizations that are all connected to the hub. … The idea is just to make it really simple to find the services that they need access to,” he explained.

Local band The New People has been doing a weekly program at the Grove and is one of the bands performing on Saturday.

“I think one of the most important things as artists is it’s very much about using music as a platform to inspire and to give competence to those that maybe don’t have it and to open conversations that are really difficult to otherwise have. But it’s also just for the sake of the art in a lot of ways to inspire the next generation,” said lead singer Stevie Tea.

Band member CxViolet, who also performs as a solo artist, explained he has personal connection to using music as a way to have discussions around mental health.

“I always found music was the one avenue where I could kind of express myself. Speaking in class situations, and just socializing as a kid was very challenging for me, so having music to open up avenues of self expression was very important. I want to open up those doors for other kids who also may have difficult conversations that they want to engage in, but don’t really know how.”

The New People collaborated with Doyle and local youth to write a new song that will debut at the concert.

“It was a really cool experience. I’ve never really worked with a songwriter of that kind of prestige, so it was a fun experience, but it was also a good learning experience,” CxViolet said.

Tea highlighted the importance of having such a well known artist support the cause of mental health awareness.

“Mental health is such a big topic. And there’s no silver bullet to solving it. The bridge of the song goes, “The door is open. I’m not hoping that we’ll find a simple fix. But if you don’t mind, we’ll spend some time and shine a light on all of this.” And I think that’s really symbolic to I think the approach that we’re taking with mental health and also the work that Alan’s done,” he said.

“This is just another piece of the puzzle. We need communities to think about our kids and to go above and beyond…Because everyone struggles at some point in their life and the more open conversations we can have and the more we can shine a light on mental health struggles that people face… if you’re not struggling with it, someone else is and if you are struggling with it, that it’s OK to not be OK,” Tea added.

For more information about the concert, see www.igniteconcert.ca.

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