Supporting Mental Health and Wellness During the Global Coronavirus Pandemic

News Release

For Immediate Release

March 24, 2020

 

Supporting Mental Health and Wellness During the Global Coronavirus Pandemic

 

HAMILTON, Ont. – Youth Mental Health Canada (YMHC) is taking action to support the mental health and wellness of youth affected by the global COVID 19 pandemic and societal measures to reduce community spread.

The global outbreak and spread of the coronavirus resulted in high rates of anxiety, multiple losses, heightened levels of stress and strong emotions. Fear and anxiety about the uncertainty of our world affects all youth, especially   youth with existing mental health conditions.

We all like certainty.  We like to know what is happening.  We like to feel a sense of control in our lives. In the mental health field, we focus a lot on the importance of safety, structure, caring connections and healthy habits. So much of the global coronavirus pandemic challenges the practices we talk about in maintaining good mental health: the need for daily physical activity, structured daily activities, connection and community and the importance of maintaining healthy habits. We are being asked to stay home to keep everyone safe. How can youth navigate this new normal while maintaining their mental health and wellness?

 

  1. Youth Mental Health Canada has created a Compassionate Card Service for people who are struggling with their mental health. The service is available to anyone of any age from any country in the world. People request a personalized message of support and a peer support volunteer from across Canada will send a message to them. Here is the link: https://edu.ymhc.ngo/compassionate-card-service/
  2. YMHC has the largest and most engaged online mental health platforms in Canada with a reach of millions and supporters from every country in the world, including 20% Indigenous. We encourage people to follow our Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/YMHECanada/ to get daily information, resources, messages of support and reassurance and a sense of community and connection through this difficult time.
  3. YMHC has also developed four workbooks, appropriate for all ages and backgrounds. The books include evidence, strength and hope-based, hands-on activities around problem-solving, self-awareness, stress management and coping skills development and maintenance. They incorporate international best practices in mental health including Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) and Social Emotional Learning (SEL).

 

These books are putting the tools for mental wellness into the hands of the people who need them,” says YMHC Executive Director Sheryl Boswell, an educator who authored the series. “We have a global health crisis affecting the physical and mental health of all citizens. We are not waiting for societal systems to decide what supports or services are available. Rather, we are using a proactive approach that puts people in the driving seat.”

 

The books were showcased at the International Association for Youth Mental Health conference in Australia in October 2019 and have received rave reviews from mental health professionals and leading international suicidologists.

Dr. Sally Spencer-Thomas, president of United Suicide Survivors International and board member of the American Association of Suicidology, reviewed the resources and wrote:

“The mental wellness series from YMHC is something every young person should have. Like a daily fitness routine, the workbooks provide practices and action steps that can help build the mental muscle of resilience for when hard times hit. They help youth focus on building a life worth living while also putting a personal safety plan in place for when they are challenged by what life throws their way. The tools and resources embodied in these workbooks are best practices in helping youth build the emotional intelligence they will need to survive and thrive now and in the future.”

Dr. John Ackerman, suicide prevention co-ordinator for the Center for Suicide Prevention and Research at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio, also reviewed the four books and wrote:

“As rates of anxiety, depression and suicide among our youth increase, we need creative and approachable solutions. The resources developed by YMHC will allow countless young people and their families to learn strategies that enhance overall wellness and make it easier for educators to tackle tough but increasingly essential topics.”

Keewaytinook Internet High School, (KiHS), an online school in Northwestern Ontario serving 13 First Nation communities where there have been youth suicides, has purchased 520 books to support their students. Boswell states that “the resources provide strategies for responding to mental health challenges with awareness, understanding, caring and compassion. Once people have access to information and resources on mental health and develop strategies and skills for wellness, hope becomes real.”

The four books in the series are: Beneath the Surface Creative Journal Workbook, Sources of Strength, Sources of Support and Mental Wellness Workbook. To preview activities in the digital and print books, go to https://edu.ymhc.ngo/resources-and-tools/.

National figures and an online survey conducted by YMHC show that youth in Canada need these resources, as 32 per cent of young people who responded to the YMHC survey indicated that they had considered attempting suicide. More alarmingly, three per cent had made a suicide attempt. Meanwhile, 59 per cent of respondents did not know what to do, who to talk to or where to go if they had mental health challenges.

YMHC strongly encourages parents and caregivers to use this time to let young people discover their interests, skills, passions and motivators - online or with physical distancing outdoors. This is a perfect time to build the mental wellness and resilience of young people. Learning doesn’t always happen in the classroom or from a book. Online resource exploration and learning, life experiences and family time are important aspects of life and living skills. Denise Hoggard, a YMHC supporter said, “There is a lot of anxiety in these uncertain times and our children can pick up on that. We should have fun with our children, let them take the lead in what they are interested in and show our interest in that. Be sure to take breaks and try our best to find balance. But most importantly – be sure to laugh and love this extra cherished time together!”

This pandemic is reminding us how important it is to stay connected and find ways to get support. Now more than ever, we are being asked to take better care of each other. We are in this together and the difference will be in how we support the mental health and wellness of youth. Finding ways to cope with these changes will make youth, families, and communities much stronger and more resilient.

 

Youth Mental Health Canada (YMHC/YMHC Charitable Foundation) is a grass roots, community-based, youth-led non-profit organization focused on youth, family and educator engagement to provide culturally sensitive, trauma-informed, needs-based tools and resources for mental health and wellness promotion, education and support.  For more information, go to www.ymhc.ngo.

 

More Information

Sheryl Boswell

Executive Director, YMHC

Phone: (647)952-9642

www.ymhc.ngo 

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