Edmonton micro-funding event highlights mental health initiatives for young people

Mental health and wellness was the focus of a gathering this weekend in Edmonton that brought together dozens of young professionals.

MEAET is a micro-funding event where local organizations pitch their project, and the winner takes home funds to move their initiative forward. The event is organized by NextGen, a volunteer-run organization under the City of Edmonton that focuses on residents between the ages of 18 and 40.

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“Mental health is something that sometimes we forget about in our day-to-day lives,” said Jenny Albers, a NextGen co-chair.

“It’s really important to have an event to put it in the spotlight, think about our own mental health and think about our wellness.”

NextGen has run MEAET events since 2011 with Saturday’s being the 15th event thus far.

The event at Edmonton Tower saw roughly 80 people in attendance three organizations presented their concepts to the group.

Shady Ape is an organization dedicated to making mindfulness and meditation more accessible to the public.

Co-founder April Prescott said this type of resource is somewhat lacking in Edmonton.

“There is often a barrier to people accessing mindfulness, whether they have to go to a meditation studio or a yoga studio, and there’s nothing wrong with that, but that kind of caters to a certain niche of people,” Prescott said.

“We wanted to give the people of Edmonton more opportunities to access mindfulness on their own terms. We look towards mindfulness and it has brought us out of those darker moments in our lives. Mindfulness is one of those practices that can give you the tools to succeed and give you the ability to look at your thoughts.”

Shades of Colour is an organization that aims to provide a safe and supportive space for queer and trans Indigenous, black and other people of colour.

Co-founder Rohan Dave said there is a need for a program like this in Edmonton.

“As racialized people, as well as LGBTQ people, a lot of the time mainstream organization don’t hold space for those intersections,” Dave said.

“Being a person of colour and navigating cultural identity, racial identity, spiritual identity as well as gender, sexual orientation and navigating these things together can often be very challenging.”

Dave said the organization is meant to provide people with a sense of belonging, connection and community to navigate mental health issues.

jack.org is a Canadian-wide network for youth advocates for mental health, and there is a local chapter at the University of Alberta.

Saskia Yumna, vice president of finance, said the group is one of the few in Canada where youth are the ones doing mental health advocacy.

“A lot of the work we do is focused on youth between the ages of 18 and 27,” she said.

“The work we do is focused on empowering young leaders to understand their own self and understanding their mental health and wellness better.”

The three groups made five to seven minute long pitches to the audience, which then voted to give $800 to Shades of Colour. The organization will use the money to organize a safe dance space on the night of the pride festival.

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