ABBOTSFORD TALKS YOUTH MENTAL HEALTH
DEPRESSION AND SELF HARM
6:30 – 8:30 pm, Clearbrook Library, January 28, 2016, Abbotsford
Panelists: Dr. Onome Agbahovbe (Psychiatrist), P.J. Lewis (Registered Clinical Counsellor, CYMH-MCFD), Lindsey Byrnes (Youth Representative, Abbotsford Local Action Team), Karen Copeland (Parent Representative, Abbotsford Local Action Team), Tasha (Youth), Suzanne (Tasha’s Mother)
Organizers of Event: Building Capacity Working Group of Abbotsford Local Action Team (Dr. Jody Ching, Gina Broswick, Sarah Jo, Lindsey Byrnes, Karen Copeland, Louise Smith, Raymon Grewal)
Attendees: There was a mix of youth, parents, service providers, counselling students, and other interested community members. Abbotsford MLA Darryl Plecas also attended the session.
Session Format and Content: Opening and closing remarks were provided by Paul Enns, Team Lead, CYMH-MCFD and Co-Chair of the Abbotsford Local Action Team
A resource sheet on Abbotsford child and youth mental health and substance use services was provided to all participants. Additional resources provided included rack cards for The Kelty Mental Health Resource Centre, The F.O.R.C.E. Society for Kids’ Mental Health, the START program, Dealing with Depression online app, as well as a pin commemorating Bell Lets Talk Day. The book “Helping Teens Who Cut” by Dr. Michael Hollander was also mentioned as a valuable resource. This book is also available to borrow from the Abbotsford Regional Hospital Library.
Karen Copeland opened the panel presentation by providing an overview of the event and introducing the panelists.
The panel was conducted in an interview format with Lindsey and Karen posing questions developed and shared with the panelists prior to the event. The audience was also invited to ask questions of the professionals following the panel (verbally or on index cards).
The panel discussion began with Tasha sharing some of her strengths and interests with the audience. Tasha then shared when she started noticing the change in her own behaviors. She shared how she’d had negative feelings about herself and her appearance early on in her elementary school years, and how this led to her self-harming. Tasha also spoke about how she eventually shared with a teacher, who connected her to the school counsellor. After Tasha had been connected to the school counsellor, the counsellor contacted Tasha’s mother.
Tasha shared that although she was initially upset that the counsellor had contacted her parents, she realized after that phone call her parents started to actively seek help for Tasha.
Prior to the counsellor’s call Suzanne shared that she had noticed her daughter keeping to herself and staying isolated in her room unwilling to share what was wrong. It was hard for her as parent to see her daughter suffer. She shared that all she wanted to do was help. So the call from the counsellor propelled her into action. They started Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT). Although Tasha was initially resistant, her parent’s persistence started her engaging in the group and opening up.
PJ Lewis and Dr. Onome Agbahovbe talked about the challenges for parents in recognizing and dealing with their children’s mental health related issues. They talked about the help and strategies available to parents in such situations and the importance of the timely administration of medication.
(For plain language information sheets about medications typically used to treat mental health challenges, please visit the Kelty Mental Health Resource Centre Medication page.)
In closing Suzanne and Tasha advised the audience that they had found that there were good and bad days, and that rather than overreacting to the bad days, they preferred to ride with them. After Suzanne and Tasha left, the audience was invited to pose questions to the PJ Lewis and Dr. Agbahovbe.
An example of a question from the audience.
Question: How do you know the difference between self-harm and suicidal ideation?
Answer: Intent is a significant distinguisher. Although attention may be a factor as an underlying intent in either situation, the key distinguisher is that with self-harm the person needs immediate relief from their agonizing thoughts whereas someone intending suicide is trying to end their life. Dr. Agbahovbe also highlighted the role of social media in adding to anxiety issues. For example some youth will want to hear back from a peer with an immediate response to a question or comment they’ve posted. However, if they don’t get that immediate response, it escalates their anxiety and lowers their sense of self-worth. He stressed the need for children and youth to find other coping mechanisms for such situations (such as spirituality)
Additional audience comment: a similar session dealing with issues effecting young adults (19-24 years).
Bios of Panel Moderators
Lindsey Byrnes is a member of the Abbotsford Local Action team within the Collaborative. She is driven by a passion to increase the supportive services offered to youth in her community and in turn, reduce the stigma surrounding mental health. She is currently actively involved in a number of local initiatives in her community and advocates on behalf of youth and young adults living with mental health challenges. She takes great pride in her various employed positions within the helping field, after having obtained a Bachelor’s degree in Child and Youth Care from the University of Victoria and is currently working diligently to complete her Master’s degree in Counselling Psychology.
Karen Copeland sits as a parent representative on the Abbotsford Local Action Team within the Collaborative. Karen is the Founder of Champions for Community Mental Wellness, an online resource that is designed to create a broader awareness and understanding of child, youth and family wellness in our communities. She loves creating opportunities for families and professionals to come together to learn from and with one another, and believes in the importance of honouring the champions who come into our lives to support us on our journeys.
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.