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Youth speak up to improve Mental Health Services

Tue, 04/03/2018 - 16:58 -- Karen Minty

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” (Margaret Mead)

This 50+ year old quote becomes more and more relevant every year. A small group of thoughtful, committed local youth are looking to make changes with their Voices of Youth Open House Night at St. Clair Child & Youth Services. The event is on April 11th at 7 pm.

Organizers Lindsay Kirkland and Brynette Moshe, both Youth Advisors at St. Clair Child & Youth Services, have launched what they hope will the be the first of many events to empower youth to speak up and be heard concerning their mental health needs.

With the help of a couple adult allies and funding from St. Clair Child & Youth, this long-term initiative intends to be exactly what their slogan says, a youth advocacy group “Led by Youth for Youth.”

“We think we know what youth need and want, but we need to hear directly from the youth themselves,” says Brynette Moshe. The event is hoping to draw in youth aged 14-25 to promote awareness, advocacy, and to gain feedback about how to improve the delivery of mental health supports specifically for youth in Sarnia-Lambton.

Brynette, 21, is in her second year of the Child and Youth Worker program at Lambton College. Through local co-op placements she has mentored young teenage boys. “I realized how important it is for youth to share their stories one day when we did a rap music activity. The boys started to rap about their lived experiences around depression, drug addiction, and abuse. They were able to open up and be heard.”

The Open House starts at 7 pm. They have activities planned, food, and a discussion of potential projects, but most of all, they want to hear what the youth have to say. Everyone is welcome, even adult allies. “We want to make it as accessible as possible, so everyone can feel their voice matters,” explains Brynette.

Lindsay, 20, whose goal is to be a social worker, knows first-hand about obstacles to the mental health services. She has had a long history of mental health problems. “It’s a long hard road and it’s a very lonely road to recovery.” After being hospitalized at age 18, she realized that she had aged-out of St. Clair Child & Youth Services and was now being referred to adult support groups. They proved to be of little help as most of the people were middle-aged and older and the contributing factors to their depression were worlds apart from an 18 year old’s.

Lindsay needed appropriate and relevant support and it wasn’t available. “When you are (mentally ill) sick, you are not weak, but you often aren’t strong enough to fight for yourself either. You need someone to help advocate for you.”

When asked what the next step is, they both admitted that it entirely depends on the feedback they receive and the ongoing collaboration of the newly formed committee.

If you are between the ages of 14-25 and would like to have your voice heard, please attend the Voices of Youth Open House on Wednesday, April 11th at 7 pm. St. Clair Child & Youth is located at 129 Kendall Street, Point Edward. For more information, please email.

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