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A place to Speak Up – about mental health

Peer-based Fraser Health initiative focuses on helping improve youth’s experience with mental health issues.

Students and school counsellors recently gathered in Surrey to experience the power of youth speaking up about mental health.

Speak Up, a peer-based Fraser Health initiative, focuses on helping improve youth’s experience with mental health issues related to themselves and others by raising awareness, building understanding and creating a vocabulary.

“By building capacity in youth to understand and be able to talk about mental health issues, we believe their overall experience when it comes to mental health – whether it be related to themselves or someone else – will be changed for the better,” said Dr. Karen Tee, manager of Child, Youth & Young Adult Mental Health and Substance Use Services for Fraser Health. “We see early recognition of an issue, increased compassion and support of others, the opportunity to connect early to a caring network and feelings of strength, resilience and hope as part of the positive change related to Speak Up.”

Funded through a $432,000 donation from Coast Capital Savings, Speak Up enables teens and young adults to share and learn from each other through in-school presentations, a Youth Peer Network and a digital community,

“Youth mental health is a social issue, and with that, you will see limited real, tangible change in the areas of prevention and treatment if we start talking more about it,” said Jay-Ann Fordy, Chief Human Resources Officer, Coast Capital Savings. “Coast Capital is committed to helping build richer futures for youth in our communities. One of the pillars of that commitment is building healthy minds.

“Without healthy minds, a richer future is not possible. Speak Up serves as a hub for important conversations that need to happen. It is time to speak up in support of youth mental health resources. We’re doing that today.”

This safe and collaborative web space supports teens and young adults from across the province in sharing their stories, and expressing their thoughts, feelings and ideas in a variety of different ways including art, photography, videos, stories and poetry.

“Youth share their voices in many different ways,” said Aidan Scott, Speak Up’s Youth Peer Coordinator. “Speak Up encourages youth to learn and share how they feel when they’re comfortable. As a youth with lived experience, I can personally tell you that had something like Speak Up existed when I first started to feel something was happening for me, I believe my experience would have been different, in a good way. I would have felt less alone and able to talk about it and get support sooner. That’s huge.”

Launched in late 2012, Speak Up is part of Gaining Ground, Fraser Health’s teen and young adult mental health promotion, prevention and early intervention program. Speak Up’s digital community lives on, a teen and young adult program (ages 13-25) that seeks to encourage the early detection and intervention of mental health and substance use issues, while increasing public awareness and reducing stigma.

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