New Winnipeg festival aims to open up conversation about mental wellness

New Winnipeg festival aims to open up conversation about mental wellness

The organizer of a new festival in Winnipeg that celebrates mental wellness says she hopes it will be a welcoming place for everyone, including those who live with “invisible disabilities.”

The first Family Mental Wellness Festival will take place at Festival Park at The Forks in Winnipeg from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday.

“It’s a way of celebrating every family in our city, and every family has mental wellness and every family has mental health needs, so it’s a way to celebrate those needs,” said Angela Taylor, executive director and founder of Inspire Community Outreach, which organized the festival.

The event is open to all ages and includes guest speakers, musical and dance performances, children’s entertainment, local vendors and representatives from local mental health programs and resource organizations. Winnipeg comedian Big Daddy Tazz will be the host for the festival.

She said this event will offer things that other festivals often don’t take into consideration, like accessible safe spaces and therapy dogs.

Festival embraces differences

“This [festival] is about acknowledging that in this city every street is filled with families just like mine,” Taylor said.

“For me personally, ever since I can remember … I knew I was different. I had a lot of worries. I felt that people didn’t understand that, people didn’t understand me because of that,” she said.

“Now that I’m older, I can learn different coping strategies with the love and support of my family.”

Her son lives with autism, and she said she wants him to embrace who he is.

“If I really want him to embrace his differences … then I need to be authentic and model that myself.”

The festival will open the door to people who are often excluded in society, she says.

“For me it’s about having disabilities and invisible disabilities. No matter where I go, I’m not thought of. I’m not invited. And for us, this event is about acknowledging that … we’re welcome. At Inspire, we’re always welcome and we’re always thought of.”

The festival comes during a week when mental health, and how it’s treated in Manitoba, has been in the news following the release of the long-awaited Virgo report. The report looked at addictions treatment and mental health services in the province.

Taylor said the key to improving mental health treatment is listening to people in the community.

“I think just getting back to the heart of community and just asking people what’s valuable to you, what’s meaningful, what are you missing in your life, and then being able to have them be the guide.”

She said many families are affected by mental health disorders, and she wants to open up the conversation about mental wellness.

“I really want them to honour that … just feel OK to have anxiety or worries, or challenges, because the challenges do come.”

Published at Sat, 19 May 2018 12:16:22 -0400