Clémence Monvoisin is 34 years old, she lives in Paris, and until recently worked as a consultant in public finance. But Clémence is also the founder of the association behind the first festival on youth mental health in France, the Facettes Festival, which took place last October in Paris.
This Matcha lover naturally gave us a meeting at her HQ, the Umami Matcha Café in the 11th district of Paris (with her dog Melba !).
What is the moment you realized you had mental health ?
It's quite a funny question, because spontaneously I would have wanted to answer that I always knew I had a certain mental health, because I live with psychological disorders which were expressed quite early, around my 15 years old, and in a rather severe way with hospitalizations, psychiatric care, etc.
But it would not be very right to answer that, because at that time, I was certainly aware that I had problems, that I did not feel well, but mental health was always about suffering in my life.
Then there was a realization a year and a half ago when I started the Facettes Festival project. This led me to consider another dimension of my own mental health, and especially to be able to work on it and do something with it. Today, I consider mental health as something that is resolutely focused on life, and the capacity to make it something fulfilling.
What do you want to improve in terms of the population's mental health ?
It's a very complicated question, because the more I learn about mental health in a broad sense, the more I discover problems, and each time I discover new ones, I want to tackle them !
However, from a very personal perspective, I would say that the issue that I feel the most driven to act on today is everything related to isolation in suffering among young people. Because I think that this is what has been the most difficult for me and it is what makes me feel the most powerless, and therefore it is necessarily what will seem to me to be the priority in terms of actions to be taken.
What is your proposed solution to solve this problem ?
The first solution we came up with was to organize the Facettes Festival, which took place in October 2022 in Paris, but which we worked on for an entire year in advance. It was the first festival in the world focused on youth mental health, designed by and for young people, and it was also the first Nolo (No Alcohol, Low Alcohol) festival in the world ! Imagine 2,000 participants over two days, with a full schedule of workshops, shows, concerts, stand-up comedy, leisure and social activities, such as a brunch, etc.
The workshops had several objectives. Firstly, to educate people about mental health, as there are many misconceptions that circulate, particularly among young people. Secondly, we wanted to provide tools for developing psychosocial skills. In the end, psychosocial skills are nothing more than self-esteem, self-confidence, the ability to make decisions, and assert oneself; and this is a real tool for better mental health, whether or not one has a psychiatric disorder. And finally, the third goal of the workshops was to present well-being, pleasure, and social ties as real preventative measures.
“It was the first festival in the world focused on youth mental health, designed by and for young people, and it was also the first Nolo (No Alcohol, Low Alcohol) festival in the world!”
In the end, we really wanted to start a virtuous circle for the festival-goers : They start by having a good time with others while discussing mental health, which can lead them to want to better understand what is happening to them or their loved ones, and then, why not develop tools to improve their psychosocial skills, and ultimately their well-being ?
The Facette project began in the summer of 2021. Today, the association that carries the project, Initiative Citoyenne en Santé Mentale, has about a hundred members, some of whom just show their support through this membership and others who are very active. In fact, the volunteer community around the festival is more like 300 people. And among these 300 people, we include all the support professionals who have joined us, who have led an activity at the festival, or who have taken part in the scientific committee. It was very important for us to have this committee composed of about fifteen mental health professionals, both to supervise and secure the proposals made for the Festival, but also to provide us with resources that we did not know or connections within the scientific community.
The uniqueness of the Facettes Festival is that it was aimed at young adults and that it was conceived by young people. We were in an advanced version of peer-to-peer in the sense that it was really the young people who designed proposals for their friends, siblings, classmates, etc. The idea was to organize an event that would be a great opportunity for young people to connect with each other.
The idea was to organize a big festive event around mental health. I almost want to say that doing a festival was like a pretext, it could have been in any other form, we could have done a big walk for solidarity, artistic activities, etc. We chose the festival format, which for me had a special dimension. The idea behind it was to propose, to show or to raise awareness on the fact that psychological suffering is not necessarily to be lived in solitude. It exists, and we don't question it at all, but we don't have to live it in isolation.
What are your plans for the future ?
It's official, we're back for a second edition of the Facettes Festival, which will take place during the same time of year as the first edition, in the fall, still in Île-de-France.
What's really exciting is that this year, we'll be supporting several other initiatives, events, and mental health promotion programs led by young people, but organized outside of Île-de-France. We're thrilled because it shows that our festival is inspiring others to create similar projects in their own communities.
From a professional and personal perspective, I'm making a big change soon. I've decided to become a professional peer helper, which is quite different from my first decade of professional work, which was focused on "financial and regulatory processes in the public sector". I've recently been recruited by an association that provides psychosocial support in the Seine-Saint-Denis area of Île-de-France, and I'm also pursuing a health mediator license through the CCOMS and the University of Paris 13.
Is there an artistic work, or someone inspiring that had a positive impact on your mental health ?
I used to attend a lot of festivals and parties, particularly when things were tough for me. Being at parties with loud music, particularly electronic and techno, helped me hold onto a sense of vitality. It allowed me to experience excitement, pleasure, and joy, and it brought people together.
This is what kept me going for years and ultimately inspired me to create the Facettes Festival. When I finally formalized the idea of creating a youth festival focused on mental health, I felt a sense of closure and a weight lifted off my shoulders, as I had finally found a way to make sense of my struggles.
What is the best way to contact you ?
The simplest method is to message me on LinkedIn. I respond promptly ! Additionally, if you'd like to discuss the Facettes project further, you can visit the website of our organization, "Innovation Citoyenne en Santé Mentale" and send us an email. We'll get back to you swiftly as well. 🙂
Interviewed by Thomas Cantaloup, on January 23, 2023
Photo credits : Thomas Cantaloup