MONSTER ACADEMY: Mental Health Skills for Montréal Youth
“Oh,” the girl said, shaking her head. “Don’t be so simple. People adore monsters. They fill their songs and stories with them. They define themselves in relation to them. You know what a monster is, young shade? Power. Power and choice. Monsters make choices. Monsters shape the world.”
― Jim Butcher, Ghost Story
Dear (Possible Future) MONSTER ACADEMY students,
For a long time, we felt like monsters. Sometimes, we still do. Do you ever have those days? Monster days. You know, when you feel ugly on the inside, or on the outside, or both. When you feel hideous and slimy and out of control, like you might hurt someone, or maybe yourself, and you don’t know how to stop it. When you feel helpless, like you might collapse underneath the weight of the secret of your monstrosity. Like you’re the only one – a monster trapped in a perfect world. Or maybe worse yet, a person trapped in a world full of monsters all pretending to be perfect.
If so, you’re definitely not the only one.
MONSTER ACADEMY is a mental health skills training project created by and for youth in Montréal. The Academy was born (a beautiful, scaly baby of an idea) when Kota and Kai Cheng (you can find out more about us on the Bios page!) got together and started talking about – well, a lot of things. We talked about how, all through high school and the years after, there were folks who were sad or angry all the time – so sad or angry that they couldn’t get up, hold jobs, go to school. How we had friends who sometimes hurt themselves, or even their girlfriends/boyfriends/partners, and no ever talked about why. How teachers were always telling us not to drink or do drugs, but not what to do when you or someone you love can’t stop.
We created MONSTER ACADEMY so that youth would have a place to share ideas and skills about mental health and illness. We wanted to debunk the myth that ‘’being crazy’’ is something that only happens to a few isolated people – to share the truth that so often, our environments make us feel crazy, and most of us feel alone at some point in our lives. We wanted to make feeling crazy or ugly or monstrous something that isn’t shameful, that doesn’t have to be a secret. We wanted to give each other strategies to keep ourselves and our loved ones safe. We wanted to celebrate the amazing ways that people find to survive and thrive against the odds.
So welcome to MONSTER ACADEMY. Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to attend 8 weekly sessions of learning, sharing ideas, free (!!!!) food, art-making, discussion, role-playing, and story-swapping. You’ll need an open mind and all your crazy awesome skills (even if you don’t know what they are yet). You’ll learn what to do when you or someone you care about is having a crisis, how mental illness occurs, how to find a therapist/psychiatrist/counselor who’s right for you, and a lot more. You’ll also get some valuable skills that you can put on a résumé, and support developing your own community mental health project (optional).
No matter what, know that we are here, that we believe in you, and that you are not alone.
All the monster love,
Kai Cheng and Kota