From Crisis to Connection

MENTAL HEALTH CARE UPDATE

FROM CRISIS TO CONNECTION

Young people are leading the way.

Members of the Mental Health Cafe Group including Maven Gray Maraj (centre), Regional Okanagan Youth Ambassador, Joshua Raphael (third from left), ROYC Program Coordinator, and Logan Burd, (second from left) MPH, CLARITY Project Coordinator.

“I know what it’s like to not have support,” shares Maven Grey Maraj, a student at UBC Okanagan. “I want to make sure that if there is just a little bit that I can do, that I do that much. And this is something where I can make a difference—a community-based difference.”

Maven’s desire for youth-led impact when it comes to her peers’ challenges with mental health are echoed across the Okanagan. Thanks to a novel initiative funded through the KGH Foundation’s Closer to home than you think campaign’s commitment to mental health, young people in the Okanagan like Maven are doing just that. 

According to the BC Coroners Service, suicide is a leading cause of death in children age 10-18, second only to fatal overdose from illicit drugs. In the Okanagan, over 2,400 young people received support from Child and Youth Mental Health Services in the 2022/23 fiscal year. On average, they waited 73 days to access services. With demand for support continuing to increase, Okanagan young people can find themselves feeling like they have no one to talk to.

Advancing mental health care is a critical component of the Closer to home than you think campaign. Funding is committed to support the immediate needs of acute and community health care providers to help people, including our community’s youth, who need help now, and facilitate collaboration to support the innovative approach needed to build a sustainable, inclusive and accessible system of care in the Okanagan.

Dr Sana Shahram
Dr. Sana Shahram

 

A FRESH APPROACH:
THE PATH TO CLARITY

“Personally, I’m very passionate about the idea that the people experiencing the problems are also the ones who will have the solutions,” explains Dr. Sana Shahram PhD, MPH. Dr. Shahram and Dr. Katrina Plamondon PhD, RN, both Assistant Professors in the School of Nursing at UBC Okanagan are co-leads of the CLARITY (Community-Led Action for Resiliency Important Throughout Youth) Project, a unique partnership between the KGH Foundation, the Blenk Family Fund and Interior Health. 

Founded in 2018, the CLARITY Project aims to address the root cause of youth’s mental wellness challenges through resilience-building intervention. 

“When it comes to the areas of youth suicide, substance use, and general wellness, we need to look to young people themselves for solutions,” says Dr. Shahram.

Dr Katrina Plamondon
Dr. Katrina Plamondon

 

CREATING A YOUTH-LED SUPPORT NETWORK

Under the umbrella of the CLARITY Project, the Regional Okanagan Youth Council (ROYC) has been established with support from RBC Foundation. The program invites youth from diverse backgrounds to attend discussions where they are able to communicate directly with community mental health partners. The ROYC acts as a collective voice for youth across the Okanagan, working with mental health and wellness organizations, such as This Space Belongs to You, Third Space Charity, and Foundry Kelowna. 

Maven Grey Maraj and Mia Ngo were se-lected to serve as Regional Okanagan Youth Ambassadors in September 2023 to help facilitate the ROYC discussion sessions held every three months where participants share their opinions and ideas about the issues surrounding youth mental health. 

“This job gives us direction and opportunity to work,” says Mia. “Engaging and connecting with youth gives me a feeling of making a meaningful contribution and being productive within the community.”

“I’m very passionate about the idea that the people experiencing the problems are also the ones who will have the solutions.”

— Dr. Sana Shahram

Joshua Raphael, ROYC Program Coordinator

THE FUTURE OF MENTAL HEALTH CARE

The ROYC is having a very real impact on our health care in the community. ROYC works by being proactive, giving youth a place to voice their concerns and make meaningful connections, to help prevent mental health crises before they happen. The hope is that a preventative care approach will help reduce the need for downstream mental health services.

“The project takes an upstream approach to youth suicide prevention by seeking to implement services and programs in the community that act as a resilience-building intervention,” says Dr. Shahram. “This helps identify the root causes of issues before they occur, helping solve issues on a broad level.”

“The CLARITY Project and ROYC not only foster youth mental health and wellness, but also much-needed connection between youth with practical experience and their peers,” explains KGH Foundation CEO, Allie Young. “In doing so, young people are, appropriately, helping drive the future of mental health care in our community through authentic engagement and deliberate actions.”

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