Local experts say they hope the momentum keeps going after a Hamilton community discussion about youth mental health.
Community members who work in youth mental health say they hope people keep talking about the issue in Hamilton. They're also mulling over the personal stories they heard during the CBC Hamilton session “Mental Health 101: Youth and the Hidden Crisis in Our Community” at Mohawk College, and ways to address them.
Terry McGurk, executive director of COAST, said he heard a need for more health promotion in schools around the issue of mental illness. He also heard what he already knew — that there can be a disconnect between hospital and community-based services.
“I think we — all service providers — need to talk about how we can work more effectively,” he said.
Dr. Sheila Harms, a child and adolescent psychiatrist with McMaster Children's Hospital, was one of four panelists at the town hall.
She'd like to see the feedback analyzed to identify themes and key points, and possibly another forum with decision makers and key community members.
“Any time we're talking meaningfully and intentionally about issues pertaining to mental health, it's helpful,” she said. “It would be helpful if we can get some traction and make sure changes emerge from the discussion.”
About 140 people attended the session in-person. More than 200 people participated online, many with their own stories about struggles with mental illness. Common themes included difficulty accessing services, discrimination in school and the need to reduce stigma. Online participants also discussed mental health and First Nations youth.
Cecilia Marie Flynn, co-ordinator of the Suicide Prevention Council of Hamilton, was an invited guest at the town hall.
She sees a momentum in society around the issue and hopes it continues.
When it comes to suicide, “what I would like to see is more people in the community — parents, youth, teachers, caregivers — actively seek out a greater understanding of how they can recognize the signs and intervene,” she said.
“I would love them to continue the conversation as much as they're able to,” she said. “They can do it in their workplaces, in the volunteer organization they're part of, in their church, in their family. We would love to have materials in every workplace in the city.”
The council is also competing for Aviva Community Fund to train 3,000 youth and families in suicide prevention. Vote for the suicide prevention initiative here.
The other panelists were Mariette Lee, McMaster student and president of COPE: A Student Mental Health Initiative; Sarah Cannon, executive director of Parent's for Children's Mental Health, and David Hoy, manager of the social work services department at the Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board.
The town hall was hosted by Heather Hiscox from CBC News Now and produced by Karin Chykaliuk.