Author: Karen Copeland
In my post Youth #MentalHealth Event, I wrote about an upcoming panel presentation in my community on the topic of Youth Depression and Self Harm. I was (and am) excited to be a part of the organizing team who brought this event together. The event was held recently and it was a huge success.
Anyone who knows me understands that I hold an incredible amount of passion for ensuring all voices get heard, and that all should be welcome to hear them. In the past I have collaborated to create parent panels, and this event was a first for me, with a youth, parent, clinical counselor and psychiatrist on the panel. The audience was a mix of youth, parents, caregivers, educators, professionals who work with children and youth, and community members.
Our group gave ourselves some pretty tight timelines to work with, but we felt strongly that this event needed to take place the same week as #BellLetsTalk (a national campaign that raises dollars to put towards mental health initiatives). We even had some swag from Bell to hand out to those who attended the session last night (thank you Bell Let’s Talk!).
This session was not just about talking though. This session was about creating the space for people to listen to understand; to hear the perspectives of not just the experts, but the youth and parent who live this experience. When we invite everyone in; when we let them know their voice matters, their story matters…incredible learning happens.
For youth in the audience, it might be an opportunity to finally hear from someone who understands or can at least relate to their experience. For parents in the audience, it might be the first time they feel like they are not alone or that the emotions they feel are valid. For professionals who are dedicated to making a difference for youth and families, it is the chance to listen, reflect and inform their practice going forward.
Panels such as these can demystify some of the unstated (or stated) questions around mental health and wellness. It is about seeing people for who they wholly are, not just for their challenges; discovering their resilience and courage. Their desire to make a difference.
Everything about this panel presentation was intentional. Our overall goal was to provide an opportunity for our community to hear and reflect on multiple perspectives on a topic that is important. There was extensive pre-work done to ensure appropriate questions would be asked, and that panel members would feel safe that evening. Resources were created and provided so that everyone could leave with something helpful. We ensured the opportunity for the youth and parent to have time to debrief after the panel, to go over anything that may have felt uncomfortable but also to celebrate their courage in sharing.
While I haven’t seen the feedback forms, we heard from many people as they were leaving that this was an incredibly powerful event; that hearing from all voices had meaning and impact. We were asked repeatedly when we would be doing something like this again.
Much gratitude to our panelists, for sharing your experiences and your wisdom with our community. I know you made a difference!
Much gratitude to our community; for being curious and being open to hearing the stories and knowledge of others.
I look forward to creating more opportunities for our community to listen to understand. I hope that our event will inspire others to do the same.
This event was an initiative of the Abbotsford Local Action Team of the Child and Youth Mental Health and Substance Use (CYMHSU) Collaborative. Funding for this initiative was provided for by the Shared Care Committee (SCC), a joint collaborative committee of the Doctors of BC and the BC Ministry of Health.