What People Are Saying About Warrior Within
Thank you so much for such an amazing opportunity. The Warrior Within project was such a beautiful, emotional and moving experience. I learned so much about myself, about my peers and my surroundings; I can say with confidence the trip was truly enlightening. I was in such a happy mood after coming back and soaking in the emotions of the day (even my Dad noticed), and taking a moment to reflect in nature was so tranquil and nice. Your energy and enthusiasm is extremely contagious and I appreciate your everlasting understanding and compassion! You and everybody else on the team really expanded my perspectives of the world in so many different ways. One prominent take-away for me was that all of us are different in a wonderful way, and to voice our gratitude and appreciation of others' amazing qualities as this in no way detracts from our own. I had such an amazing time and found there were moments where I embraced my 'Warrior Within'. I'm so in awe of this production and thank you so much for reaching out to me to join such a powerful and talented team, I cannot wait to work on it again next year!
This Warrior Within initiative is unique in that it greatly benefits both producer and consumer. This is true for the producer, in a way that I was fortunate enough to experience first hand. I gained an enormous quantity of experience by working as the Assistant Director on the short film. I have been interested in directing for quite some time, but having never directed for film, I was unsure if I would actually be able to do it, if given the chance. However, all my worries were put to rest from the moment I arrived on set. I was elated upon realizing that I could engage in the very dynamic intersection between the visual world and metaphoric world in a way that was challenging and meaningful. This comfort was in no small part thanks to the incredibly supporting and nurturing environment created by my peers, and of course, the superbly talented mentors.
In addition, I know that once the finished product comes out, the consumers, (being students, educators, parents, and the general public,) will also derive meaning from what has been created. The Warrior Within fills a gaping hole in the realms of media and pedagogy surrounding mental illness. This initiative brings questions of stress, anxiety, depression, and more into the modern context. It illustrates and explores how mental illness is not binary, nor is it monodimensional; how it is complex and kinetic, rather than binary; how it is not always born from trauma, but can be induced by the day-to-day strain of being a teenager in contemporary society. This has not been done before, and is absolutely invaluable, as these are truths, which are often tragically ignored.
Perhaps the reason that this project is so impactful, is that it makes consumers out of producers, and vice versa. Through conversations with my fellow students working on this project, I realized that every single one of them, like myself, had had an experience either themselves, or with a friend or family member, which gave them direct insight into the life of someone struggling with their mental health. A core belief of all members of the group was that art heals, and as each of us created and shaped the work in our field, we were allowed to explore creatively, and engage with our personal challenges. I found this extremely beneficial; during and after this project, I felt in touch with myself, and stronger as a person.
I believe that the lesson plans, which are to follow, have the potential to do the same for a great many others. Through being put behind the wheel of their education, students will be engaged, and feel spoken to rather thank spoken at. The dynamism of this concept is vital, and cannot be overlooked.
I hope, and believe, that hundreds, if not thousands of others will benefit from the Warrior Within like I did. This will happen because of the core beliefs of the group and the work, being that feelings are important; they demand to be talked about and engaged with, and we must use our most current understanding of brain chemistry and the modern world to make mental health matter.
Near the end of the school year, I received a bit of a confusing email out of the blue. One of my guidance counsellors was embarking on a project that would take place throughout the second week of summer. It included the words "production", "camera" and "film", so naturally, I was drawn in. I agreed to participate without really having an in-depth understanding of what I was getting myself into; however, as the dates approached and the project materialized, I began to get increasingly excited. What that week brought (working on making the documentary for this initiative) for me was one of the most rewarding, challenging and fulfilling experiences I've ever had to kick off a summer. To see a team of students and professionals jointly working towards a common goal, learning from each other both technical skills and mental resilience, and forming companionships over what was really just five days was incredible. I know that the quality of the final product will reflect the great work that we've all put into it, and I can't wait to see everyone again!
The four days I spent photographing Warrior Within were amazing. Surrounded by like minded people, and artists who understand what it's like to struggle with mental illness, was truly great. In the four days we spent filming, painting, dancing, and writing, I made friends from different grades and schools, and worked with an inspiring mentor, Catherine Farquharson. In such a short amount of time, everyone at Warrior Within became a real team, because we are all so passionate about the project. Mental illness is a pressing issue, and it's important kids and teens are educated, so they know they aren't alone. I'm really looking forward to designing an accessible mental health curriculum with the Warrior Within team in the months to come. This project was incredible and I know it will stay with me for years to come.
One year ago, I attempted to commit suicide.
“Yeah. I’m really committed to getting better,” I lied to the paramedics. They nodded solemnly at my parents as I sipped my charcoal, the black grit absorbing the 31 doses of Prozac I had consumed earlier.
As a compulsive liar and major depressive, I was a danger to myself outside the barred windows and white drywall. Yet the adolescent ward offered no therapy options; resources were only sufficient for the adult mental health wing. After a month of on and off hospitalization, it was clear I could not recover using hospital assets. I was applied to an adolescent program at McLean Hospital in Boston. A month and a half of intensive dialectical behavioural therapy (DBT) turned my life around, and I returned to UTS in September, equipped with newfound mindfulness skills.
When I was first introduced to the Warrior Within project, I saw it as an opportunity to spread awareness of two core concepts; firstly, the severe dearth of Ontario adolescent mental health services, and secondly, the DBT module of mindfulness. The Warrior Within curriculum is revolutionary in that it will bring an easily accessible form of DBT to classrooms. I knew from the start that this is my chance to help peers who can not afford to have private therapy, whose parents may stigmatize mental illness, or who have given up on themselves as I have in the past. I have a firm belief that no one should have to suffer through mental illness alone, especially when so many types of treatment are available as well as a community that is prepared to support them.
I had a couple moments of realization throughout the film process. The first occurred during the image transfer on day three of filming. I had chosen to blow up and transfer a photo of self-harm scars on my thighs onto a 48x48’’ wood panel. In the past I had struggled with my scars, feeling ashamed when they were visible and fearful of judgement. While the image had been pixels on my phone screen, the razor lines seemed so insignificant, even when I had printed it out and created a rasterbation. I was a little shy with the decision, but I continued with it anyway.
When it came time to remove the paper and complete the transfer, I required the help of multiple others in the film crew, outside the trio of visual artists. A wave of inhibition washed over me as the image was slowly revealed. I felt as if I had been stripped naked, the rawest form of myself exposed to people I barely knew. I braced for gasps of horror, sympathetic smiles, but instead was met with looks of strength and encouragement. It was then I realized how my artwork could be met with criticism and disgust, but the objective of my piece is to speak out against such judgements, inspiring the same emotional support I received from the Warrior Within team.
Second, on the final day of filming, the artworks were wrapping up and yet I felt that my piece was incomplete. In the last hour, I glued flowers up a healed scar on one of my thighs, as a representation of growth from my past distress. The action seemed small, but I recognized the drastic change that had been fostered by DBT and mindfulness. A year ago I wouldn’t have even imagined to represent recovery or hopefulness in any of my art. I remember collaging with safety scissors whilst being supervised by an overworked nurse, anger and despair manifesting in dark lines and ripped edges. In the five minutes I took to add my flowers, I felt a sense of peace, a promise to myself that despite what has happened and what may happen in the future, I will outgrow it. I hope that my artistic contributions to Warrior Within will inspire others to feel the same security, and trust in mindfulness and DBT to aid in times of emotional difficulty.
The Warrior Within project was important to me because it gave me a chance to see a group of motivated, impassioned, driven people working towards a common goal of promoting awareness of stress and anxiety within school. This is an issue which has affected me throughout much of my life but which is rarely discussed in full. Being part of this project made me realize that this discussion will soon be taken to the classrooms, which is an invaluable step in helping students. Seeing adolescents and adults come together to promote a conversation that needs to be promoted is very inspiring, and gave me hope.
Being a part of the Warrior Within Project really meant a lot to me, a lot more than I thought it would at the beginning of the week. Over the four days of shooting, it was incredible to see the entire team come together. No matter where we went, it felt like we belonged in the space, whether it was the school, the ravine, the pool or the barn. For me, I took the first three days to really get to know the whole team and then had the pleasure of shooting portraits of them on the last day. With the help of my mentor, Catherine, I was able to take portraits that I really felt captured the energy of each individual on the team. This was incredibly satisfying because the photographs really demonstrate the strength and individuality of each person, and how they each contributed differently to the Warrior Within project.
I recently had the pleasure of participating in the Warrior Within initiative. Going into this project I hoped to be able to prove to myself that my stress was just as valid as anyone's else's. However, I ended up gaining much more than just that. Through Ms. Wachter's and Martine's wonderful guidance I was capable of actually locking away many past issues that had negatively affected me for a while now. Participating in this program showed me that I did indeed have the strength to put away my stress and anxiety, and although I am still conscious of it, and it may come out again every so often, I can still live with it and mostly stay in control of myself and my emotions.
The Warrior Within was mostly an observatory project for me, one where I stood back, watched, and reflected.
Most of the time when you look at an artwork, you wonder what the intent was behind it, and how it was created. Being part of the Warrior Within allowed me to talk to the artists themselves, and see the progress of their work. It also allowed me to see what struggles that each of the artwork represented for them. It made me wonder, why did those things happen in the first place? Why did she cut herself? How have those experiences shaped them? Though it wasn't really my place to ask such questions, it did remind me that people are going through things all the time, whether you can see it or not.
I'm curious about people. About myself. And perhaps, with Warrior Within, I can start to understand other people more, and find them within myself. To see how one with those experiences can influence one without such experiences, and how we can learn and connect with each other.
And I hope to bring these questions and emotions of the people behind the project into the final film, within the musical soundtrack.
I was unsure of what to expect upon joining the Warrior Within team, but my nervous thoughts were instantly settled when I arrived at our studio and met our art mentor, Rosa. She greeted me and my team with warmth and seemed very excited to get us started. After experimenting with different media, some of which I'd never thought to try, let alone heard of, we began to plan our multimedia canvases.
We were to use several media to depict stages of a mental health journey in our lives. Being a painter, I'd always feared using anything other than paint as a medium and so I often found myself playing it on the "safe" side of art, avoiding anything that I hadn't done or seen done before.
This project helped me understand the harm in my thought process. I recognized that I could easily become trapped in a mindset of self-doubt and apprehension, skeptical of my own instincts and unable to accept "mistakes". This was hindering my creative process. I never thought I'd see the day when I'd do a multimedia painting, but with Warrior Within I created a work that involved a black-and-white print, tissue paper, ink, nails (!), and acrylic paint (of course).
I'm now working on translating this non-perfectionistic mindset into everyday tasks, be it art or essay-writing. Sometimes not following the rules and letting the imagination run wild can generate the most spectacular and fulfilling results.