Karen Copeland lives in Abbotsford BC. She has two children and has extensive experience navigating School, Health and Ministry mental health (children and youth) systems to obtain the services her family needs and deserves. Karen shares her experiences with others to create a broader understanding and awareness of the challenges families face when their child has a mental health challenge. She loves creating opportunities for families and professionals to come together to learn from one another, and believes in the importance of honouring the champions who come into our lives to support us on our journey. Karen is passionate about the amazing things that can happen when youth and families are fully included and valued in all aspects of service systems.
what is champions for community mental wellness?
Champions for Community Mental Wellness was created in 2014 by Karen Copeland. Champions is committed to changing the conversation in our communities about child, youth and family mental health and wellness. Karen shifts perspectives by sharing personal experiences, resources and tips online via this website and social media channels, as well as through sharing her knowledge and expertise through speaking engagements and interviews with media.
Champions is about changing the conversation at the community level, not just in systems. Embracing a lens of curiosity and encouraging new perspectives is critical to creating communities that care. Click here to find out how Karen is connecting community.
Champions believes that every voice matters when it comes to child, youth and family mental health and wellness. Guest submissions are welcomed, and more blog challenges are planned for the future.
Please feel free to connect with Karen via email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Why did Karen create Champions for Community Mental Wellness?
This is our personal family story. We knew from an early age that our son was just a little bit different than other children. This meant we needed to discover a different (and better) way to parent our child. We have faced many challenges trying to navigate systems to get our son and our family the support we need and deserve.
I learned that when it comes to children’s mental health, there is a LOT of stigma and not enough discussion about what it is like for families who are trying to help their child. People are quick to judge and make assumptions about parents who have children who behave unexpectedly. All you have to do to is read a news article about misbehaving kids. You will see all kinds of nasty comments about how the parents are not doing their job. For many years, our parenting was questioned because our son was different from other kids.
The truth is, many parents are trying very hard to get help for themselves and their children, but the services either don’t exist or have long wait lists. I wrote a blog post that featured an image of many of the services we have accessed over the years to try and get help, in addition to the parenting courses we participated in. You can read the blog post here: Meeting the Minister.
When we first started our journey, I had no idea how to advocate for our son and our family. I was hesitant to use my voice, and when I did, it didn’t always go well. I wasn’t content to remain in a state of feeling helpless and hopeless, so I had to draw upon my courage to discover more effective ways to use my voice. I never dreamed this would lead me to where I am today, but I am so glad it did!
I am passionate about sharing pieces of our journey to create more understanding of how mental health challenges impact children, youth and families in our community. I started the Champions for Community Mental Wellness facebook page in April 2014, and started blogging in September 2014. In November 2014, I wrote a blog post called “I am that Parent” to try and dispel some of the assumptions that are made about parents who have kids who have challenges. The post was very well received and generated heart wrenching comments from families who could relate to what I had written.
I now speak to university students who are entering into helping professions, as well as education. I was recently a guest on the Simi Sara show on CKNW radio in Vancouver and shared some of the challenges and barriers families face when it comes to accessing services. I am actively involved in my community, sitting on committees to ensure the parent voice is represented and valued at the table. I lend my voice and my support to campaigns that will make a difference for children, youth and families – such as the recent Surrey Hospital and Outpatient Centre Foundation campaign to create a child and adolescent psychiatric stabilization unit in our region, so families do not have to travel to Vancouver to get this specialized care.
My intent is to continue speaking out in a very authentic and engaging way to begin shifting how we think about child and youth mental health. The reality is we are ALL impacted when a child is experiencing mental health challenges. But if we don’t talk about it, if we don’t hear the stories of families, it is too easy to assume this isn’t an issue or concern in our communities.
Most importantly, I speak out to create the space for other families to start sharing their stories. I have discovered my voice and become a champion. My vision is to assist other families to do the same.