One time, at band camp

Teens with mood disorders come to camp to Let It Out

For teens, summer is the time to have fun, let loose, make new friends, and just let it all out. What better place to do that than at summer camp?

This summer, the Mood Disorders Association of Manitoba is hosting their annual Let It Out! Summer Rock Camp for Teens at the Robert A. Steen Community Centre.

Running on its fourth year, Let It Out is geared towards teenagers aged 12 to 17. Though teens don’t have to be officially diagnosed in order to join, they do need to have some prior musical knowledge.
Taylor Demetrioff is the founder of Let It Out. Having played in bands himself since he was 14, he used music to cope with borderline personality disorder.

Demetrioff says that Let It Out is formatted similarly to a program that he attended as a teen. Members are grouped together into different bands and practise their songs together. They play some covers and even learn to write their own songs to perform for the big show at the end of each session.

The camp has all the elements that you would find in a “typical” band camp; however, Demetrioff wanted to incorporate a mental health aspect. The students listen to presentations about mental health and participate in daily group sessions, which allow them to open up and share their experiences.

A number of students have returned to the camp year after year, says Demetrioff, and he’s seen them become more open and willing to break out of their comfort zone.

“I remember the first year there was one person [who] wouldn’t say a word to anyone,” he says. “And then by the second week she was on stage rapping and jumping around, and just super vibrant and kind of being herself.”

The camp program fosters team-building skills and gives students a safe space to socialize, but it also challenges the students to reflect on their own musical capabilities.

Kara Passey, former arts and culture editor for the Manitoban, recently joined the Mood Disorders Association of Manitoba team as a youth outreach co-ordinator, and is working as a counsellor at the camp.

She has worked in music programming for after-school programs for the past few years, but wanted to get involved with this program because she enjoys “working with kids that need the support that they might not normally find at school, or even at home.”

Like Demetrioff, Passey has used music to help cope with her anxiety and has played in couple of bands. She says that although coping with the disorder while fronting a band can be tricky, it has helped her to better deal with stress and has taught her to be more outgoing.

She relates the idea of being in a band to building a community.

“When you’re in a band, the ideal setting is to be in a group of people that you trust and [to ensure] that it feels safe, and so we kind of use that atmosphere to show kids how to be in a supported place.”

Passey says she looks forward to supporting the teens at camp and getting the opportunity to see what they’re capable of achieving.

Let it Out will have four two-week sessions starting July 7 and running until Aug. 29.

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