Author | Photos Saba Ahkta (A Mount of Sand)

If You Ask Me: A Daring Evening of Short Films by Canadian Youth Living with Mental Health and Substance Use Disorders

In 2017, Rendezvous with Madness (RWM) and CAMH’s National Youth Action Committee (NYAC) partnered to create “If You Ask Me,” a compilation of short films created by youth from across Canada who are exploring their own experiences with mental health and/or addiction issues. 

This year, RWM and NYAC and commissioned fifteen of the filmmakers to create new films! “If You Ask Me” is screening at Workman Arts (651 Dufferin St.) this Sunday, October 14, and we know it’s going to push us to think in new directions. In anticipation, we caught up with filmmaker Saba Akhtar (A Mount of Sand) to find out what compelled her to make the film she’ll be sharing and what conversations she hopes it initiates. 

STDC: How would you describe your film in one sentence?

SA: A Mount of Sand explores how the abuse I experienced at the hands of my brother permanently transformed my family and my life.

What is the most important message you hope to convey?

Honestly, I really just want people to hear my story. I’ve been silent about the abuse that I’ve faced for a very long time and now want people to know the impact it’s had on my life.

Can you please share with us a discovery you’ve made since you first set out to make this short?

Before working with the community at Workman Arts, I didn’t think I was a good storyteller and filmmaker. I never went to school for film, and I often feel self-conscience about that. Through the process, I have come to realize that my voice is valuable and that I might actually be good at this. This confidence doesn’t always last, but just feeling it is progress.

In your opinion, what conversation do we really need to be having right now when it comes to mental health?

It’s great that the discussion around mental health has become more open. But I think the way the jobs and schools are structures still doesn’t accommodate people’s mental health needs.

What’s your advice to the woman that is struggling and feeling alone?

Lately I’ve been more open about my depression with my friends. I talk to them whenever I need to, and it helps. It’s hard to remember that a support system exists, but it does.

Sometimes I take walks or runs, just to see all the other people in the world. Other times I just sit in coffee shops to see them.

I write a lot; it doesn’t necessarily have to turn into anything, but sometimes I need to get my thoughts out of my head.

I don’t know if I would call this advice, but these are things I have been doing, and it’s been helping.

How are you feeling right now?

The last week has been pretty hard. There have been a lot of great things happening in my life, but I can’t help but feel empty. I’m just taking life one day at a time.

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