We all have mental health. Regardless of our age, life experience or background, it’s something we all live with. Our mental health is like a spectrum, a continuum that can move fluidly between being mentally well, or potentially mentally ill. There are a variety of factors that dictate how we move on that continuum— things such as genetics, our life experiences and even our lifestyles (sleep, diet, exercise etc.). We know that the earlier we can work to build skills and resiliency, the much greater rates of mental wellness we can experience. This begs the question, what is being done in our community to support youth mental health?
The Canadian Mental Health Association, Haliburton, Kawartha, Pine Ridge Branch (CMHA HKPR) provides support to all those 16 and older living in Peterborough City and County, Haliburton County, Northumberland County and the City of Kawartha Lakes.
You don’t need to be referred by a family doctor or specialist; any person interested in support can contact our branch to explore our services. While our agency does not focus exclusively on youth mental health service provision (such as local agencies like CHIMO), we do work to provide mental health education and training.
Recently our CMHA HKPR Branch partnered with Fenelon Falls Secondary School (FFSS) to deliver a pilot training program. Mental Health First Aid training was delivered last fall to 18 students. This youth mental health program was funded entirely by a private donation. A concerned local family recognized the importance of equipping our young persons with the skills to provide support for one another. Thanks to this family’s generous support, one more school in our community has increased its students’ skill and support.
Mental Health First Aid teaches participants how to recognize mental distress and then how to connect that person with appropriate supports. Much like CPR/First Aid, the goal is not to provide long-term care, or solve all underlying problems, but rather to recognize and redirect to professional supports.
With these new skills, students at FFSS now have the confidence and capabilities to recognize when a peer may be struggling and know how to direct them to help more immediately. The sooner someone seeks support, the greater the rate of recovery that person can experience.
The results from our pilot were overwhelmingly positive. All participants scored the course presentation an eight out of ten or higher, 75 per cent of participants gave the course presentation a perfect grade. All students felt more confident supporting a peer experiencing mental distress.
Not only did students recognize this impact, but so did members of our community. Ward Legal, a local law firm with a desire to help create a mentally healthy community for all youth decided to host an event. In late May, a ball hockey tournament was held and following that event proceeds were directed back towards this pilot project. As a result, even more local students are going to be able to receive Mental Health First Aid training.
One training at a time, we’re hoping to create mental health for all.