High Notes

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Music can change the world because it can change people - Bono


We are thrilled that singer/actress Jennifer Walls will be part of the HIGH NOTES GALA on Feb. 1st. Luba Goy, Lloyd Robertson, Michael Landsberg, Orlando Da Silva and many other musical friends are coming together for an evening of hope and to raise the image of mental illness. Thanks Jennifer for answering our questions so honestly and openly.

How has mental illness affected your life? I’ve had anxiety for much of my life.  I was also diagnosed with severe depression a few years ago.  While I don’t so much experience depression anymore, thanks to medication, personal work and removing toxic aspects from my life, I still deal with my anxiety on a regular basis. It started when I was younger but I didn’t realize that’s what I had because we did’t talk about it back then. That anxiety then manifested into an eating disorder which I dealt with for almost half of my life.  I’m very proud to say that I am more in control of my mental health now than I’ve ever been.

Did you ever feel ashamed about the subject and avoid talking about it? Of course. Especially when telling my parents because I didn’t want them to feel like it was their fault. I also didn’t want people to think I was weak or unstable and wasn’t capable, because I knew I was in spite of my challenges.  Now that we are more open as a society about mental health, I feel much less ashamed and much more empowered by being able to talk about my experiences. I am not my mental illness. I am a strong person who deals with challenges but has worked to learn how to over come them. 

Why do you think there is so much stigma towards mental illness but not (for example) cancer, diabetes and heart disease? I think there is much less stigma than there used to be, because we are much more open about it. But we still have a long way to go.  I think the stigma exists because it’s much less tangible or obvious than say cancer or heart disease.  The “physical symptoms” aren’t there in the way other diseases show themselves.  

How and why does music have power to change that? 

I’ve always taken comfort in music. I was always fascinated by the way that an artist’s lyrics said exactly what I was feeling and I took comfort in feeling that I wasn’t alone. That someone has been where I am and they got through it and so can I. I also find music to be very cathartic.  If I’m feeling anxious I’ll put on something loud and fast and I’ll go for a run and work out that energy. Or, if I need to calm my mind and genre myself, some quiet meditative music helps me tune into my breath.  Music has surrounded me my entire life and it has always helped me through the good and the bad.

How can we ALL help change that? I think we have come a long way in speaking up about mental illness.  Research is being done and people are more able to understand what it is.  We are also talking more, which is amazing.  I think by being open and being compassionate, whether we are affected directly or indirectly–mental illness effects the people closest to those who live with it just as much, and I know this first hand–and continue to talk and learn and be kind to each other.   

Why should we? 

So many people are affected by mental illness–most people, really, whether directly or indirectly–so it effects all of us. I really think the world in general needs a bit more kindness and compassion.  People are fighting wars inside their heads everyday. A little kindness and understanding goes a long way.  We need to empower each other.

Why did you agree to participate in the High Notes Gala for Mental Health? I have been a very vocal advocate for mental health since I was diagnosed with depression in 2013.  After my diagnoses, I performed a Cabaret in which I said in public for the first time “I have anxiety and depression.” The music I performed in the show gave me the strength and courage to say it out loud. I couldn’t believe the support I was met with.  Music has played a huge part of my healing journey. Being part of this night that celebrates mental health and music is so special because I know first hand the healing power of music and the power of speaking up and speaking out.

What other projects are you working on… before and after Feb 1? I am the host/producer of a weekly show in downtown Toronto called SINGular Sensation.  It’s a weekly musical theatre open stage every night at Statlers on Church Street.  We’re in our 7th year and offer a safe, supportive environment for performers of all ages and skill levels.  It’s a big party where everyone celebrate music and personal authenticity. You never know who our special guests will be. Everyone from touring Mirvish shows to love community groups.  I am also the voice of the Family Jr. channel.

Please feel free to add anything you like or feel is important! I so appreciate this event and everyone who is coming together to make it happen and give it a face/voice.  The more people that are in the public eye, that people look up to, that speak up and share their stories, the more people will feel empowered to speak up themselves.  I’m honoured to be part of it.

Tickets to hear Jennifer at the High Notes Gala on February 1 at the Richmond Hill Centre for Performing Arts can be purchased by calling 905.787.8811 or online HERE.

HIGH NOTES AVANTE is a registered charity (827049388rr0001) working to raise the image of mental illness. Our objectives include offering art productions (such as this High Notes Gala for Mental Health, Feb 1, 2018) directed towards the alleviation of loneliness and isolation as well as reducing any associated stigma. We promote mental health education by providing information from mental health professionals and testimonials from artists and other well-known personalities.

Our dream is to one day produce “THE” mental health concert that will be accessible from coast to coast in Canada and give hope to everyone touched by mental illness, whether they live in Nunavut, PEI or BC–or just are too ill to get off their couch in Richmond Hill.

This year’s Gala will be live-streamed on our Facebook page.

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