By Brenlee Brothers
Jan. 27, 2016
Sixteen-year-olds Cody Taylor and Zack Chandler were the driving forces behind the high school benefit that raised $3,600 for the P.E.I. Mental Health Association on Jan. 6.
The Grade 11 students organized the benefit to raise awareness about mental illness and acknowledge the stigma of mental health. Donations from the benefit brought in $1,800, but a proposal letter to Scotia Bank resulted in the proceeds being matched.
The benefit included performances from the Down East Dance Academy, The Cody Taylor Band, MRHS Jazz band and Georgetown’s Aftershock.
Taylor has dealt with mental health issues himself and because he found the help he needed, he wanted to do something to give back, he said.
“I just feel like there’s so many mental health issues in rural P.E.I. and so many people don’t get help because they’re scared, or they don’t know what’s wrong and they live their whole lives without knowing what to do.”
For people who struggle to wrap their heads around the concept of mental illness, or for those who just don’t understand it, Taylor uses the analogy of a broken arm.
“You break an arm and it’s painful. There can be complications and the healing process may take longer than you first thought. But sometimes, the arm doesn’t heal properly, and it comes back for the rest of your life to cause you pain.”
After the benefit, Taylor received a letter from one of the teacher’s at his school. She wrote about her daughter’s mental illness and how much she appreciated what they were doing.
“It takes young people to raise awareness and that’s what she pointed out,” Taylor
Doug Weeks is a teacher at Montague regional high school. He agreed to MC the benefit because his sister-in-law works for the Mental Health Association.
Teachers have a tendency to bring things to the forefront, but they’re not as invested as the students are, he said.
“They really have to be the driving force, or it’s just another assignment to get through,” Weeks said.
In a run of a day, teachers will have 30 to 50 things come by their desk, Weeks said.
“Some of it’s half-hearted efforts, sometimes it’s just fulfilling obligations, other times it’s one particular person spreading the word, trying to rally support.”
Nowadays the government doesn’t fund everything like they used to, so schools are forced to fundraise for everything, which can be tedious and difficult, Weeks said.
“It’s hard to get one particular issue front and centre,” he said. “There’s no real initiative about mental health and I think there should be some sort of driving force behind that.”
It’s a matter of who gets to determine what, and sometimes it’s just the people willing to do the extra work, he said.
Taylor and Chandler were those people.
It wasn’t the school that did this, it was the community, Weeks said. It was the community who attended it, and the students within the community who came together to talk about these issues.
“There’s a growing community spirit here. There’s a lot more things happening at the school in the evenings than we even realize.”
Taylor hopes the benefit was able to shine some light on the mental health association and the issues faced by people everyday.
“From psychologists and psychiatrists, to people who put on presentations at schools, I just think they all go above and beyond the call of duty and they just work so hard, and I think what they do it essential.”