Rosedale singer-songwriter Amy Sky has awakened.
Since opening up about her personal struggle with mood disorders in 2006, the three-time Juno Award nominee has seen a shift in her music to a more uplifting tone.
“It’s kind of an evolution of being more conscious of my (song-writing) intentions,” Sky said in a November chat, reflecting on how her advocacy has caused her music to evolve, and how it has led her to form an online community for those suffering in silence. “Nothing has changed other than instead of an accidental result of what I write, it’s … knowing how powerful music is, and to choose music that makes people feel good.”
Back in ’06, the now 53-year-old was a guest performer at a gala for Mood Disorders of Canada, and was inspired by the people who were the subjects of tribute.
“When I got there, and I saw these celebrating people who were brave enough to talk publicly about what they have been through, and they were honouring researchers that campaign to remove stigma, I was so impressed by their courage that before I sung I shared with them that I had also experiences with mood disorders,” she said. “The only way I spoke about it publicly was that I had a few lines in my song ‘I Will Take Care Of You’, where the mother is talking to the daughter, saying she’s scared.”
Sky says she suffered bouts of post partum depression, and grappled with reactive depression. She admits what she was going through was unknown to her.
“I realized that the reason why I didn’t want to talk about it was the reason I had not gotten the proper treatment in the first place: because I was uneducated about what it meant to have a mood disorder,” she said. “I thought it was a character flaw instead of a brain health issue.”
That’s when her role of mental health advocate began, and since then she has worked with the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health on their Transforming Lives Public Awareness campaign, as well as Sunnybrook Hospital.
That works tied in with 2012 launch of Alive and Awake, her first album release in more than a decade. It was more than just a CD release. It involved setting up a newsletter and community where she could reach out to her fanbase and help them open up about mental health.
“I realized it was reinforced for me how powerful words could be especially if you were just telling the truth and telling a human story that happens to so many people,” she says. “It’s created a greater dialogue with my fans.
“I’m more engaged with them through my newsletters and social media, and I feel I can give back more through art, language and words.”
The steady media attention has helped Sky to open up more and more, and she says, it also helped her family — husband Marc Jordan, and children Zoe Sky Jordan and Ezra Jordan — be better equipped to deal with health issues.
“It was an adjustment, you know, to be in the news about mental health, but I think it’s been good for all of us,” Sky shares. “When one in five people have a mood disorder at some point in their life, everybody knows someone, or will know someone that’s going to struggle with it.
“I feel like my husband and children have a lot of emotional intelligence around mental health and they have been able to be better friends for people, and better support for people when they’re going through tough times because they’re comfortable with talking about the uncomfortable straight up.”
The chanteuse is staying active, and has two more concerts in the wings: Nov. 21 at Massey Hall, with Ronnie Hawkins, as well as the Canada for Philippines fundraiser with Lights and the Airplane Boys, Nov. 24, at the Fairmont Royal York.
She’s hoping to be back in the studio for another in 2014, and she’ll continue to talk on behalf of mental health.
“You know what, 25 years ago people used to whisper the word ‘cancer’, right, and now it’s just ‘You got cancer, you just treat it’,” she said. “I long for that day where people have that awareness about mental health by creating a conversation about it.”
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