When we hear about the challenges of mental illness and addiction one important point that is often overlooked is that symptoms often start during adolescence. The journey from child to adult can be complex and challenging. Youth often feel tremendous pressure to succeed at school, at home and in social groups. At the same time, they may lack the life experience and coping skills that lets them know that difficult situations will not last forever.
This is exactly the story I’ve heard from Catherine, a youth Peer Support worker at CMHA Calgary who recently moved to the city. She says that not understanding her own mental health challenges as a youth meant she dealt with them in isolation. She has told me, that knowing about the resources that are available, and how to connect with others, would have reduced the challenges she faced.
“I didn’t know what to do with the feelings and thoughts that were emerging. I wasn’t aware anything could be done about it, and I thought I was the ‘one of’, that no one else in the world could possibly feel the way that I did. My coping skills became unhealthy, I was more focused on how to get rid of the uncomfortable feelings, rather that managing them, simply because I didn’t think the choice existed. I would have benefited greatly from having a resource like CMHA Calgary growing up, knowing that what I was feeling, wouldn’t last a lifetime. That there is a community out there who I am able to relate with, that treatment is available, and recovery is possible.” – Catherine
The youth in our community need our support now more than ever
We have been working in Calgary schools for more than 20 years, and CMHA Calgary is committed to continuing to support our youth’s mental health needs. We know that young people want to have meaningful roles in how supports for mental health are designed and delivered. We just hosted a Youth Mental Health Summit where almost 60 schools from Calgary and area attended, bringing more than 300 students and a teacher or guidance counsellor together to learn how to build capacity to transform how mental health education and supports are delivered in their schools and communities.
This is groundbreaking work – empowering young people by giving them access to learn from the life experience of others in an environment where they can create their own communities of support. We know that the earlier people get the support they need, the better the outcomes – which is why our Youth Engagement Strategy supports prevention and early intervention.
Please invest in CMHA Calgary, and help support the mental health needs of our youth
With your help, we can continue to reach more youth with programs that increase hope, build coping skills, and give them the confidence they need to deal with challenges when they arise.
Executive Director, CMHA Calgary Region
Click here to donate to CMHA – Calgary and help support youth this holiday season.