“Q&A” interview with Louis Lalancette, director of Zéphir, as part of National Mental Health Week, which runs from May 2 to May 8.
What advice would you give to Louis, who made his directorial debut with Zéphir 5 years ago?
I would definitely tell him not to get too scared of all the projects that come to his mind just to maintain his own mental health (laughs)! Seriously, when I think back to that time when I ended up here with my total inexperience in the field, the most obvious thing to me, in retrospect, is the sense of cheating I had at the beginning and the mistake of believing it a disadvantage is. Pretty soon I understood that I could benefit from it because my background as an “uninformed man” made it easier for me to understand how to go about my efforts to carry the case, to have a more realistic to get a picture of “Mr. and Mrs.”. Tout-le-monde”, of my ability to put myself in their shoes. This state has followed me in all my decisions thus far and I am very happy to be an “anti-casting”, an “outsider”. It allows you to look at things from a different angle and “get out of the mold”!
When we talk about mental health, do you think we are well equipped in Chibougamau?
Yes quite! In our municipality, far from the major centers, we are fortunate to have access to all kinds of services nearby. So are those with mental health! At Le Zéphir anyone with a diagnosed problem or a loss of psychological balance in any form can get the necessary help. Our intervention team will receive the person or refer the person to another service if ours is not sufficient (in addition to the psychosocial care of the health center, this is also a very good path). One thing is certain: if someone takes the first step towards us, we accompany them for the rest. The problem is not the lack of “tools”. The problem is always the difficulty of asking for help. And it’s not a local, regional or Quebec problem, it’s global! When it comes to mental health help and support, people are barriers of their own because the stigma of seeking help and the culture of shame about our psychological “weaknesses” is so strong that the first steps are not taken! You know, we’ve just been through two years of pandemic and we’ve made a big report on the plight of the population. We heard about mental health everywhere. But honestly, there hasn’t really been more traffic from our side… Why? Of course, the pandemic has been very hard on people’s morale and psychological balance, but unfortunately it is not enough to overcome the immense barrier of the stigma of asking for help. In short, in Chibougamau are all the necessary services to help people in need. People should just ask for it!
A person I know needs psychological help, how can I help him? Which services can she contact?
The most important thing, when someone around us loses their balance, is not to “play the caseworker”! It is best to be a good listener, to be present, but we should not believe that we have the means to control the situation ourselves. It’s a bit like someone being physically injured. We must be careful with our interventions. We are not doctors or paramedics. However, if anyone needs help, we refer to the available services. Here in Chibougamau there are two options: Zéphir and psychosocial support. It is these two entities that work closely together and can guide the person in need and their loved ones from the start. And it’s very important not to make the mistake of thinking that things will sort itself out over time, etc. A mental health problem must be taken seriously, all the more so because it is difficult to identify and invisible… Don’t you dare , ask for help!
As part of National Mental Health Week, you’ll host an improv competition. Why this specific thematic activity?
Improvisation is a game! The playful approach, when you want to bring up the topic of mental health, is very “paying”. We always come back to the stigmatization of psychological problems which, as I said before, is very powerful! However, an improv competition is a great playground where you can have a lot of fun, where all topics can be discussed without fear of shock or destabilization. It’s a game! This freedom is well suited to dealing with mental health, because the discomfort created by this subject is “cancelled” by the context in which it is allowed to laugh at everything. In doing so, it fits in perfectly with our awareness efforts, bearing in mind that a stubbornness in educating people by intellectualizing our subject leads to an admission of failure. You have to reach people by going other ways, by going outside the box, and the improv competition allows us to do that. Discomfort will give way to “madness”. It is good to have an uncomplicated laugh about it and thus downplay the view of the matter. We bet that by the end of the evening everyone will be well amused and more aware, that the seed of consciousness will have been sown and that we will have succeeded in creating an opening in people’s minds to introduce the idea that mental health is a concern is that everyone should have in mind…as everyone is concerned!