Having just spent a morning speaking to AP Psychology students at a local high school this week, I thought it would be a fitting time to highlight a few mental health resources for children and youth. When I was growing up, there were few to no places for me to go to talk to a qualified adult or peer counselor about my turbulent home life, so I find it incredibly heartening when I learn of the variety of programs that are out there now. I hope their posters are plastered all over the doors and walls at every school in the communities they serve!
First up, because it’s coming up soon, and is always the kick-off to Mental Health Week in Canada, is the Walk So Kids Can Talk. Planned for May 4, 2014 at locations all over Canada, the Walk is a fundraiser for the Kids Help Phone (see below). You can join a team, walk individually, donate online – it’s your choice!
The National Children’s Mental Health Awareness Day will be May 8, 2014 in the United States. Events are organized by community groups and health organizations, and while I don’t see anything posted for 2014 yet, here’s a list of the events held across the country in 2013, and by whom.
Kids Help Phone is a 24/7 free, anonymous and professional counselling service supporting the mental and emotional well-being of kids ages five to 20 across Canada. If you want to understand why a line like this is so important, here’s an example of a recent (and real) call: Kevin Helps a Friend Being Bullied.
Australia has a similar resource, called Kids Helpline. It’s also available seven days a week, 24 hours a day.
In the U.S., both of the kids help lines I found are faith-based (when I was a teenager, this would have been enough to dissuade me from calling). The one run by Covenant House is called the Nineline Crisis Hotline, and is not currently operational (calls are being rerouted to the National Runaway Safeline). The other is run by Boys Town, a Catholic organization, and is still in service.
The U.S. also has the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline for people of all ages, and TXT 4 Help, where teens who feel they’re in danger can send a text, and in return will be sent location details of the nearest designated “Safe Place” (fire stations, libraries, fast food restaurants, YMCAs, Boys and Girls Clubs, convenience stores, and other businesses all serve as Safe Place sites in different communities). There, a Safe Place volunteer or agency staff member will meet them to talk.
It has been a couple of years since I ran across the Kids in Control and Teens in Control programs, run by the British Columbia Schizophrenia Society as a resource for children who have a parent with schizophrenia. I hope to write more about this program in the future; it looks quite amazing.
It’s the 21st century, and resources have to be designed to meet teens where they already go. OK2Talk.org has done that by creating a unique Tumblr site. Although geared toward teens and young adults who suffer from mental illness, anyone can add their voice by sharing creative content such as poetry, inspirational quotes, photos, videos, song lyrics and messages of support in a safe, moderated space.
Another organization that is utilizing the digital world for its delivery of services is WesForYouthOnline.ca. A recent Aviva Community Fund grand prize winner in the At-Risk Youth category, this Ontario-based organization was recognized for its efforts in using an online counseling model, as well as for plans to build a local center that will offer face-to-face services and meet-ups. It’s a fantastic example of community members who saw a need and then went to work creating the solution themselves.
The U.S. federal government is behind Caring For Every Child’s Mental Health, and while I’m not sure about the availability of interactive resources, they have published a number of topical papers and links for young adults to help with the transition into adulthood.
I spent a bit of time looking for a youth-oriented program offered through the U.S.’s National Alliance on Mental Illness, but everything I found mentioned that it was for those who are 18 and over. What they do have, though, is a two hour in-service program for teachers (and parents, presumably those who help out in the classrooms), aimed at helping them identify and respond to early warning signs of mental illness in children. It’s called Parents & Teachers as Allies.
That’s my start to a round-up of mental health resources for kids. I will try to keep this list updated on an annual basis by checking that these resources are still available and adding new ones.
If you know of any other resources, anywhere in the world, that are targeted to children, teens or young adults, please share them in the comments section below.