“Most of the these youth have never had this opportunity to go to BC before. Many of them haven't barely even left their home community of Pinehouse, so we were very excited to do this for them” Dre Erwin, President of the Pinehouse Photography Club.

"I love the PPC family!!!"

-Tyson Ratt

Sponsored by Six Rivers Fund, 13 youth were given the opportunity to do photography this summer at Tie Lake, British Columbia, close to the USA border. With the power of taking pictures, youth learned the value of group therapy and using the camera to talk about their personal feelings and emotions. Often the youth would take pictures, then come back and talk about them, what inspired them to take the pictures, reflecting on their thoughts and emotions.

The club was also sponsored by the Community Initiatives Fund (CIF) and was awarded $9000 towards the purchase of 30 Nickon CoolPix cameras. "These cameras are so easy to use, the quality is amazing, and the youth just love using it," Mallory Lariviere, program director. Louis Iron, 16 year old who attended the trip says "the pictures are amazing and we can connect using WIFI and Bluetooth to our Ipads and phones."

"I was so happy being there"

- Dakota Natomagan, youth participant

The Pinehouse Photography Club (PPC) uses therapeutic photography with youth to help start the conversation about mental health.

Jonathan Durocher, a 13 year old who attended, says he loved the trip. "I really miss it and wish we could do it again right away", says Durocher. Durcocher was one of 13 youth, between the ages of 13-18 from the Pinehouse Photography Club (PPC) had the adventure of a lifetime this past summer as they all got chosen out of a hat to go for a week. "I dont think about being sad or depressed when we are taking pictures. BC was so amazing and I made so many new friends," Durocher.

"I was able to feel like myself and open up about my feelings" -Louis Iron

Therapeutic photography provides youth with an outlet to express their feelings and emotions. "Having all these youth together with us, we were able to spend some quality time with them for an entire week," Erwin. "We could be out taking pictures together, relaxing at the cabin, or in the vehicle, but we all had the opportunities to share a lot of personal things. We all shared a lot of laughs and even tears," Erwin.

"I really feel like I am important now. Photography really did save my life"

-Keara Tinker, youth participant.

Youth were all given an all expenses paid trip to BC and back.

A lot of fundraising was needed. Jon Ray Durocher, volunteer and Vice President of the PPC, "We all worked tirelessly for months before the trip, making and selling pizzas, selling ice cream, so we could provide the kids with some spending money too". Youth ended the trip in west Edmonton mall and were all given $100 each for spending money there.

Shortly before arriving back in Pinehouse, youth were able to witness and take pictures of the northern lights. "It was such an amazing way to end the trip," Zackary Warren, youth participant. Louis Iron was just talking about the recent suicide of his step father. "And then I get a chance to see these lights and take pictures of them. It was like a sign from him that everything will be ok", Iron.

For final evaluation, youth were asked to write short evaluations about their experiences and how it helped with their mental health. This also included depression scoring and follow up. For more information and to see their personal stories, you can join their club on Facebook.

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Gordon Lake/Norbert falls 3 day Youth Retreat

Louis Iron is a 16 year old member of the Pinehouse Photography Club. "It was after my step dad's suicide I became depressed" Say's Louis. "I often was sad, didn't want to go outside...we were all sad". Soon after the tragedy, Louis discovered the Pinehouse Photography Club (PPC), a local photography club that engages youth to use photography as a form of therapy. "Learning photography really helps with my feelings" says Louis. "I met so many new people who support me and make me feel good. Taking pictures really opens my eyes to things I never saw before and I began to not feel depressed."

Supported by the Youth-led Community Health Grant program, the PPC hosted a event over the spring/summer of this year out at Gordon Lake and Norbert Falls. "We wanted just a few youth who we could spend some quality time with" Say Jon Durocher, Vice Present. "Instead, we had an outpouring of youth wanting to participate!" With the initial goal of 15 youth, the club ended up hosting over 30 youth for the 3 day outing. "We focused on photography, teaching the kids how to take pictures, and then talking about them after we were done" Says Durocher. "And something we often see is that once these kids are taking pictures, they begin to open up to one another and to the group. They start talking about their depression or anxiety".

Durocher also adds, "it was a lot of fun. Aside from photography, they camped, swam, fished, went tubing, went for hikes, played hide and go seek. They watched movies outside on a projection screen. It was a really rewarding experience for us all!"

The Youth-led Community Health Grant program from the Saskatchewan Prevention Institute sponsored the photography club $2000 for this event. "Without those funds, we wouldn't have been able to put on this event for the kids" Mallory Lariviere, program director. "We couldn't believe how many youth wanted to participate in photography and this event" says Lariviere. "Using photography helps the kids start the conversation about mental health and about their feelings".

The non-profit organization hosted the event and included a focus on healthy lifestyles. Dre Erwin, President says"we wanted to have a balance of fun for the kids, but also take the opportunity to do some teaching". Along with a list of activities, the youth were presented with discussions about addictions and mental health. "Often photography helps the youth communicate. It gives them an outlet to express themselves which in turn, opens up the door for further dialogue", say Erwin.

Morgan Tinker, youth and volunteer at the event says the experience was just a lot of fun. "Everyone was happy and laughing and we did so many activities. No one wanted to leave", says Tinker.

The Pinehouse Photography Club focuses on using photography as an outlet for youth to express their emotions and feelings, without even saying a word. Often youth who are high risk for mental health problems and/or addictions begin opening up about their thoughts and feelings. For more information, you can contact them here, or check out their Facebook group to see some of the amazing work the youth are doing.

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Keara Tinker is a 17 year old from Pinehouse Lake, Saskatchewan. Keara joined the Pinehouse Photography Club late last year and has found the club and photography very useful. "Photography changed my life!" says Tinker, "before I didn’t know how to look at life because I was at a that point of depression. I was cutting my arms thinking about suicide often and I was always putting my self down".

"Therapeutic photography increases self esteem and self worth"

Now an active youth and member in the club, Keara utilizes therapeutic photography techniques to help prevent mental health issues, such as depression and thoughts of suicide. Tinker says that she was scared at first to try something new. "I was to scared to go there until they opened the studio near by my house".

"I dont think of my depression anymore. I don’t cut my arms anymore. I don’t think of suicide anymore," Tinker.

Therapeutic photography changes the way youth see their lives. Instead of looking down, and focusing on negativity, they begin to see the beauty all around themselves. "I am starting to take pictures of my beautiful home town and now everyone (I see) is beautiful and pretty," Tinker. "I love taking pictures now!"

Tinker encourages all youth to be brave and try something new. Photography helps "you see life differently and it's a lot of fun!" Tinker.

The Pinehouse Photography Club is a division of the Canadian PhotoHealth Authority, which utilizes therapeutic photography to help prevent and deal with youth mental health problems and/or addiction. Statistically, the non-profit organization engages over 300 youth a month in Pinehouse and is focused on spreading more awareness to other communities and government officials that there is more options that can be explored to even prevent mental health problems before they occur.

More more information, you can like Keara's photogoraphy page In the Moment" on Facebook.

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