‘Normal is a cycle on the dishwasher’

The latest show airing on NorthwesTel Community Television is aiming to open the floor to more conversations about mental health. Yukon State of Mind aired its first episode in the last week of October.

The latest show airing on NorthwesTel Community Television is aiming to open the floor to more conversations about mental health.

Yukon State of Mind aired its first episode in the last week of October.

Nataschaa Chatterton freely admits most of the small group of people involved had no idea what they were doing when they got together in August to talk about it.

“We all just kind of came really inspired by what we care most about. And we all have our own unique histories and stories with mental health,” said the Whitehorse-based counsellor and trauma therapist.

“That’s what inspired me, standing up for all the people I love, and myself.”

Unlike many of the shows that air on the community cable channel, where wannabe TV stars come to NorthwesTel with ideas, in this case the company reached out to residents.

Community TV manager Chris McNutt said they wanted to continue the momentum that was started earlier this year when Olympian Clara Hughes rode throughout the country as part of her Big Ride to raise awareness about mental health.

“(Clara’s) message was, ‘Let’s keep the conversation going about these issues,’” he said.

“It was like, well, we could help with that. That’s something we can do, keep that conversation going, and this is how we can do it.”

The first episode focused on challenging the stigma that comes with mental health issues. In a way, that’s the goal of the entire series.

“I think a big part of it is the education aspect. Demystifying mental illness. The statistics say one in five, but we’re all affected. Whether it be us personally, our family, our friends, our co-workers,” said Kim Solonick, who helped create the show and was one of its first guests.

Historically, the mentally ill have been viewed in largely negative terms, such as being violent or non-productive, said Solonick, who has a family member with a mental illness.

“In reality, people who have a mental illness are very much like you or I. They just have a diagnosis that needs to be treated.”

It’s not a dirty secret that has to be hidden.

“A lot of people think that a diagnosis is, you know, I don’t want to use the term ‘death sentence,’ but that it is a terminal diagnosis,” Solonick said, “and they just see a life that’s going to be wasted, and that’s not the case at all.”

Chatterton has had her own traumatic childhood but managed to come through to help others who are struggling.

Society is slowly realizing that it’s not enough to tell people to just “leave their emotions at the door,” she said.

“I think we’re starting to really break through a lot of these misnomers that somehow we can turn things on and off and this realization that there’s this whole world going on inside of us.”

What’s crucial is finding the courage to seek support from professionals, family and friends, she said.

Solonick, who was involved with Clara’s Big Ride and is also with the Mental Health Association of the Yukon, said public events can sometimes attract the same group of people who are already comfortable talking about mental health.

The private nature of watching a television screen could reach different people, she said.

“This opportunity for the television show has reached into communities and homes of people who wouldn’t have necessarily gone to an event. It may be the trigger that says to them, let’s go check something out.”

The first episode was done in one take. They started out with the semblance of a script, but that didn’t last long. Instead, the interviews felt more like conversations.

“The reactions that you saw were the reactions when someone asks you a question and it was an emotional question,” Solonick said.

It’s that connection to the guests sharing their stories that is important, she said.

“People want to hear that. They want to hear the human side of mental illness. They want to put a face to somebody. Sometimes that can be a real challenge to step out there and say, ‘Here I am,’ but it generates conversation and engagement.”

Talks are already underway for the next episode. McNutt is hoping to put another episode out before the end of the year.

The planning process is a fluid one. There may be a different host next time and the episode will touch on different issues, but the women are giving away few details.

“What we’re really trying to figure out though is how we’re going to be making this a conversation that opens up space rather than creating silos,” Chatterton said.

The show has a Facebook page if people want to learn more or provide ideas. The TV schedule is available online.

Chatterton said she hopes the show reaches people who think their problems aren’t bad enough to warrant attention.

“Many people, probably most people, present themselves has being in a place of ‘I have it all together.” The reality is that most of us, at least an hour every day, are wondering am I good enough? Am I loveable?”

Realizing that we all need help at some point helps to breakdown the misconceptions that push some people into a corner, she said.

“There is no normal, and because of that we’re all normal.”

“Normal is a cycle on the dishwasher,” Solonick added. “I have that sign in my kitchen.”

Contact Ashley Joannou at

ashleyj@yukon-news.com

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