Amanda Todd forced us to confront the pain which some of our daughters and sons are living. Mission’s Natasha Wilson has forced us to confront the fact it isn’t happening ‘over there’. Jessica Barrett of the Vancouver Sun has forced us to confront the fact that, whether or not we in the media choose to discuss teen mental health issues, they will have the discussion themselves – with or without our involvement.
Getting beyond the headlines is where we really need to go.
While ‘suicide’ is the word that tends to grab our fleeting attention when it hits the headlines, there is usually a very long and often complicated story leading to a tragic outcome. It is when that story starts and while it unfolds that support and sometimes intervention can stop a challenge from getting worse and can change someone’s outcome.
The good news is that as more and more people become aware of just how commonplace mental health issues really are (one in five youth in BC will experience an issue) and begin to better understand the early signs and talk openly about them, more people will find their way through them and manage to cope.
Simply put; suicide, while it may be the catalyst that gets the media talking, it is not the story. The story is more nuanced; more complicated; more challenging and, in the end, filled with more hope than despair.
Two initiatives are focused on reaching teens and young adults (ages 13 – 25) to raise awareness about mental health, to educate them and to ultimately reduce stigma and replace it with compassion, hope and resilience.
An inspiring website called mindcheck.ca – a partnership between Fraser Health (FH) and BC Mental Health and Addiction Services (BCMHAS) – helps youth understand and identify what’s going on early, gets them connected to support and teaches that you can be resilient and have a positive outcome. By helping teens and young adults deal with mental health challenges head on, honestly and openly, mindcheck.ca hopes to prevent the escalation of someone’s mental health issue.
Speak Up, a Fraser Health initiative that’s funded by Coast Capital Savings, encourages youth to speak up to help change the conversation about youth mental health by encouraging participants to change their perception, conversation and actions related to mental health and those experiencing challenges. This new conversation can help change a youth’s experience with mental health issues related to themselves and others by raising awareness, building understanding and creating a vocabulary to:
- Improve recognition that something may be going on for them or for someone else;
- Connect them to support and a caring network early;
- Help them support someone else;
- Instill feelings of compassion and belonging; and
- Build strength, resilience and hope.
Early identification, intervention and the ability to self-help, will, the program team believes, lead to better outcomes and quicker recovery.
Sadness, stress, mood swings and worry… these are all normal emotions and they can be deeply painful and concerning. Recognizing when they last too long, are too intense or are beginning to interfere with everyday life can get someone connected to support and back on the road to good health faster.
mindcheck.ca educates visitors on the early signs and symptoms and directs them to quizzes so they can check out what’s going on for them. Individual – and confidential – results, direct them to the level of support best suited for them. Support includes education, links to self‐help tools and chat/email support, and assistance in connecting to local professional resources.
Recommendations are reflective of results generated by the easy‐to‐use screening tools.
mindcheck.ca focuses on seven conditions ‐ depression, anxiety, stress, substance use (drug and alcohol), psychosis, social anxiety, and body image and eating.
Friends and family also play an important role in providing support to youth experiencing mental health challenges. A section on the site is being developed for families and friends, as well as for professionals who work with teens and young adults.
Similar to Kids Help Phone and other outreach programs for teens, mindcheck.ca offers a safe and supportive place where teens can gain information, seek advice and share their experiences.
Speak Up is also a place for those who have already been to mindcheck.ca to share their story and connect with others to ultimately participate in changing the conversation about youth mental health – how you think, act and talk about mental health.
Speak Up is being developed by youth for youth, supporting teens and young adults to discover and recognize their strengths, and to inspire them to leverage these strengths to enhance their quality of life and well-being.
Components of Speak Up include targeted education sessions in Fraser Health region high schools, colleges and universities, a Youth Peer Network that includes youth mentors, a Youth Advisory Team and a Youth Peer Coordinator.
Speak Up @ mindcheck.ca, the program’s collaborative web space also reaches teens and young adults throughout the province. In this webspace – located on the mindcheck.ca website – teens and young adults can share their stories, learn from others and express their thoughts, feelings and ideas through videos, music, stories/poetry and a variety of engagement tools.
Mental Health And Substance Use
Mental health and substance use issues are the primary health challenges experienced by young people in their teen years and early 20s. One in five B.C. teens and young adults will experience a mental health or substance use issue serious enough to cause significant distress and impair their ability to function at home, school or work and with their peers.
Instructions for a bad day
Students from G.P. Vanier in Courtenay, BC,wrote, filmed and produced the video Instructions for a Bad Day.
mindcheck.ca‘s public awareness program has been developed to raise recognition of the early symptoms – feelings, thoughts and behaviours – that a teen or young adult may experience or that a parent, teacher or friend may observe, in the early stages of a mental health issue. Public awareness materials direct them to mindcheck to check it out.
Order and use public awareness materials in as many ways as possible. With widespread support, B.C.’s teens and young adults can be reached and supported when they need it the most.
For materials and more check out the Help Promote page on their website.
Public Awareness Materials
- Poster and postcard sized PDFs: For use in newsletters, on websites, in presentations, self printing.
- Limited printed posters/postcards available for order: For display and distribution.
- Articles aimed at the target audience and third party: For use in newsletters, on websites, etc.
- Factsheets for download and distribution.
- Tweet content.