Pinehouse youth viewing life through a healthy lens
- Julia Peterson | January 06, 2020
The Pinehouse Photography Club (PPC), a therapeutic photography club in Pinehouse, northern Saskatchewan is expanding its horizons as it enters its third year. The club continues to teach skills and offer mental health support to local youth, and is now getting young photographers involved in national initiatives and cultural events.
Club president and founder Dre Erwin says the club helps start a conversation.
“Our main objective is to use therapeutic photography to help youth open up about mental health problems,” he said. “A lot of the youth that come to us, you wouldn’t think they’re depressed or have any thoughts of suicide – these are kids that haven’t said anything, even to their parents or their friends. And they start using the camera and leaning photography and taking pictures, and they start opening up about their thoughts.”
The club also works closely with health professionals and social workers to ensure that vulnerable youth are able to access appropriate supports.
“There isn’t a youth centre in town, so what [the club] does is gives the kids a safe place to go to where they can have positive influences on each other,” Erwin said.
Every month, the club has over 100 youths aged 10 to 17 come to take photos of nature and talk about what’s on their minds.
“The club helps me not think about depression – it helps me a lot,” said twelve-year-old club member Jaredan Smith. “It’s hard. I often feel sad and angry. But photography makes me not as depressed as I used to be, because it makes me see the beauty in life.”
Sixteen-year-old Louis Iron also credits the club for improving his mental well-being.
“I’ve been through so much depression and sadness to the point that it became brutal,” Iron said. “And then I just thought that maybe photography would do the job and kill all that, and it turns out it’s actually been doing a pretty good job. The club is really helpful. It shows you there’s still hope.”
Earlier this year, Kids Help Phone purchased 12 photos from Pinehouse youth as part of their Finding Hope Action Plan, aimed at preventing suicide and supporting Indigenous youth.
“Now our youth are realizing they’re not just [taking photographs] for themselves; they’re actually helping youth all across the country,” said Erwin. “And I know a lot of them are going to look back at this and know that they’ve actually helped someone – and there’s no greater satisfaction than helping someone else.”
This year, Erwin has focused on involving the club in more cultural events, so the Metis and First Nations members will be more connected with their communities.
“We had a booth at the elders gathering that just passed, and we had kids with PPC jerseys and name badges on walking around with cameras for the whole week, and they all felt really important,” Erwin said. “It was really awesome to see these kids feeling like they’re doing something for their community. We’ve definitely seen how effective that was for their mental health.”