Yellowknife teen aims to connect youth with mental-health resources

Finding the help he needed wasn't easy, but now that Devon Hodder has gotten there, he wants to help others navigate the N.W.T. mental-health system.

Northern Minds connects young people over Snapchat, helps people navigate mental-health system

From left, Devon Hodder, Breeya Matheson, and Ally Curtis have started a group called Northern Minds, which aims to connect youth and quash mental-health stigmas. (Submitted by Devon Hodder)

Accessing mental-health services in the North can be an intimidating ordeal — especially as a young person.

But after a recent experience with the system himself, one Yellowknife high school student is trying to make things easier for his peers.

Devon Hodder started Northern Minds after an experience at Stanton Territorial Hospital made him realize his fear of navigating the mental-health system was unfounded.

"I've been struggling throughout my life, and I never really did anything about it," he said.

"Then, one day, I was picked up by the RCMP after someone called, because they were concerned."

Hodder spent a week in the psych ward at Stanton Territorial Hospital, where, he said, he learned the importance of self-care.

"You gotta take care of yourself first. It shouldn't matter what other people say," he said.

Though his experience of the hospital's services were positive, Hodder had no idea until he was there that so many resources were available to those struggling with mental health.

Program connects youth over Snapchat

In early January, Hodder started Northern Minds to get resources in front of young people who, like him, struggle with mental health.

Together with two friends, Breeya Matheson and Ally Curtis, Hodder started a "youth ambassador program," connecting young people in need of counselling over Snapchat.

Behind the scenes, Hodder and his friends get support from professional psychiatrists and counsellors.

They say they've already received interest from youths and their parents in need of advice about navigating the system.

"A key part is getting the message out there, and giving people something to connect to," said Hodder.

In addition to the ambassador program, the Northern Minds website hosts resources on mental health from the Canadian Mental Health Association.

Hodder is also planning a series of support groups aimed at quashing negative stigmas around mental health.

"It's OK to not be OK," Hodder said.

Northern Minds is currently looking for more volunteers to expand their programming. More information on the organization is available at northernminds.ca.