Yukon launches FRIENDS mental health program for rural communities

The government of Yukon, Bell Let's Talk and Northwestel are spending $500,000 to introduce FRIENDS, a mental health program aimed at preventing childhood anxiety and depression.

Territorial government, Bell Let's Talk and Northwestel to spend $500K on program

The FRIENDS program is designed to give young people skills to manage anxiety. 'Really, wherever you find a group of kids, you could run the FRIENDS program,' said Marie Fast of Yukon's health department. (CBC)

The government of Yukon, Bell Let's Talk and Northwestel are spending $500,000 to introduce a new mental health program aimed at preventing and managing childhood anxiety and depression.

The FRIENDS program was developed in Australia and uses cognitive behavioural principles to give young people social and emotional skills or "emotional resilience."

Marie Fast from Yukon's health department says community-based facilitators will be trained to deliver FRIENDS programs across Yukon.

"A good program, especially one that targets anxieties, will give kids strategies to relax, to lessen their anxiety, and it will tackle some of the distorted thinking and worrisome thoughts that happen for young people," Fast said.

Yukon Health and Social services minister Mike Nixon announces the launch of the FRIENDS program Thursday in Whitehorse. (Dave Croft/CBC)
Yukon education minister Doug Graham said the program could help fill in some gaps for young Yukoners needing help — especially those in rural communities.

"Things are so different now than when we went to school, and nobody's really sure of how they should be working with some of these kids that are troubled," Graham said.

The goal is to have two 10-week facilitator training programs completed by the end of June.

The Yukon government is contributing $250,000 to the initiative, with another $250,000 coming from the Bell Let's Talk program and Northwestel. The funding was first announced in 2014.     

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