Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

United they rock

Camp helps teens cope with mood disorders

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It may be only rock 'n' roll, but teens Griffin Jenkins and Concetta Grande -- well, they like it.

Jenkins and Grande are both former students of the Mood Disorders Association of Manitoba's School of Rock, a summer day camp that provides musical programming to kids dealing with mood disorders.

The camp runs in four sessions throughout the summer and allows kids to form bands based on musical preference. Counsellors and music teachers are on hand to assist while the kids rock out.

Grande, 17, and Jenkins, 15, both struggle with depression. They attended the School of Rock last summer and continue to use the Mood Disorders Association's youth group programming every Monday during the school year.

Jenkins first took part in the School of Rock in August 2011. Though the 15-year-old has been playing guitar for years and counts music as his No. 1 passion, he was initially apprehensive about the camp.

"At first it was nerve-racking because my whole idea of what it was going to be like was totally opposite of what it turned out to be. When my dad said band camp for kids with depression, I assumed it was going to be a whole bunch of moody teenagers playing really moody music. But when I got there, it turned out to be people who, once you connect, they're people who are dealing with the same stuff as you," Jenkins said.

"And then you get to play music together, which is just an added bonus."

Grande, who sang with Jenkins at camp in the band Fosha Bosha, said the Mood Disorders Association's programs have helped her cope with her own struggles with depression.

"It's nice to know that you're not alone in what you're feeling and the things you're going through. It's great finally getting to meet other kids who get it, who know how it feels and don't judge me because of it. But the environment is super fun and it's not super serious all the time. That's a really refreshing part of it," Grande said.

The Mood Disorders Association of Manitoba can offer programming like the School of Rock thanks to the support of United Way. Last year, United Way gave more than $5,000 to the association.

This financial support is part of a larger initiative by United Way to invest in Winnipeg's youth in order to build stronger communities.

Grande's mother, Darlene, said she has seen first-hand a positive change in her daughter thanks to the association.

"It's difficult because as a mother, you feel like you should be able to take care of all of your children's issues but you can't. You really can't. So that's why I am so grateful that Mood Disorders Association exists. It gets to the point where you need some help, and you can't deal with it on your own. They were there for us in that way: to help."

katherine.dow@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition December 1, 2012 B3

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