Art With Impact Screens Movies for Mental Health at KPU

Jonathan Lao volunteered to be a panelist at the Movies for Mental Health night, where he spoke about his past experiences and his journey in improving his mental health. (Braden Klassen)

As part of its ongoing outreach efforts, the KPU Peer Support counselling and mental health program partnered with Art With Impact to host a movie night and group discussion at KPU. The event took place in the Surrey campus’ Birch building on Oct. 16 and consisted of three short film screenings followed by a discussion led by a panel of students and community mental health support workers.

Art With Impact is a national non-profit organization that hosts events on university campuses, often screening films and facilitating discussions  about mental health with students and young people.

“It’s a great way to support young artists who really want to combat some of the misconceptions [about mental health] in the media and we can use their art in this type of platform,” says Natalie Daley, the program director for Art With Impact Canada.

The first film screened was Gladys by filmmakers Jessica Jones and Diana DiBattista. Its protagonist and narrator explains how she left her home country and her husband, and how she avoided seeking help from others due to her fear of the cultural stigma surrounding depression.

The second film that was screened, Fine., is an abstract animated short created by Vancouver Film School graduate Saida Saetgareeva which depicts the anxiety felt by the narrator as she struggles to answer the question, “How are you?”

The third film shown was Purpose by Nigerian director Victor O’Frank, which follows a young man as he works to find happiness and a sense of purpose in the stressful day-to-day realities of living and working in New York City.

Daley says that creating and watching films can be an especially effective way to explore important topics like mental health.

“I think it’s really the medium of our generation,” she says. “It’s super accessible. You can really see yourself in a film, but [don’t] have to talk about that explicitly. So, on a college campus, it’s a really good way to start conversations that don’t have to get overly personal.”

One of the panelists was Jonathan Lau, a third-year psychology student and member of KSA Peer Support. Lau spoke about his own experiences with trying to overcome feelings of depression in high school, and how he came to realize the significance of paying attention to his own mental wellbeing.

“Coming from that place myself, I realize and recognize the importance of having a social support network,” he says. “Sometimes you have to take that step to put yourself out there and try to find where those resources are. I applaud the students who came in, quite a lot of whom I don’t recognize from past events, and I’m happy because they’re taking the initiative to try something that may be different for them.”