Archive for November, 2014
Jeunesse 2000 (J2K) animator Eva knows the importance of artistic expression in building youth confidence.
Many youth who come to the J2K drop-in centre have difficult situations going on at home, and need an outlet to express themselves. Unfortunately for many, access to safe, non-judgemental spaces that encourage artistic expression is rare. Providing a quiet place to write, or workshops on how to play musical instruments, is invaluable. It allows youth to build relationships with animators like Eva. “We try and fill a gap in society – it can be hard to talk about certain things with your teacher or parents, and so you end up talking to your friends, but they’re not necessarily the best people or the most informed. Youth really need that in-between, which is why I see myself as a big sister figure.”
For Eva, part of being a big sister means creating safe, non-judgmental spaces that inspire and empower the youth. In early October, she hosted a discussion group on black hair and identity; and this summer, along with other J2K staff and youth, she helped put on Do My Ladies Run This, an all-female music showcase at Shaika Café. For Eva, it was important for the youth to see women, “practicing, singing, and jamming. It showed them that, yes, they belong here, and yes, their art matters.”
But Eva stresses that you don’t have to want to make art or have a topic you want to discuss to come to J2K. In fact, you don’t need to have a reason at all. For youth, just knowing that there’s a place where they can come and hang out if they have nothing to do is really important.
On October 5th, Rhonda, our Social Counselor, attended the 2nd annual Students in Mind conference at McGill University. The conference aimed to create a space for the McGill community to come together to change the mental health climate on campus and to reflect on the role mental health plays in everyday life.
Rhonda was excited to attend the conference to bring mental health to the forefront of conversations— to make it a topic that can be talked about, rather than hidden. “Unless people have been depressed themselves, it is very difficult to imagine what it is like,” Rhonda explains. “When students feel they’re depressed or anxious, they need to be able to talk about it.”
Around 150 students came to campus on a Sunday for the conference, which included workshops on self-care and peer support, speeches, and panels on topics such as cross-cultural portrayals of mental health, social media and mood, and student strategies for mental health.
Rhonda spoke on a Mental Health/Illness & Criminality panel, which discussed the over-representation of people with various forms of mental illness in the criminal justice system, and ways to address the marginalization and isolation of people in need of mental health support.
Mental health support is notoriously difficult to access in Montreal; many youth are unable to access appropriate, affordable support and can fall through the cracks of the existing social safety net, which can lead to marginalization and criminalization. Existing support systems, like schools, social workers, and psychologists, are often overwhelmed with cases and are not always able to provide appropriate, ongoing support to youth.
Rhonda is able to support youth facing mild to moderate depression or personal crises, and works in collaboration with Dr. Tellier to support youth who want a mental health evaluation from a doctor. Dr. Tellier is able to provide evaluations at our medical clinic and referrals to psychiatrists. As always at Head & Hands, our mental health support services are holistic, non-judgmental, and focused on giving youth the support they need to make informed choices about their mental and physical well-being.
Three years ago, government budget cuts forced us to suspend NDG’s only street work program. We immediately set to work rallying community support in order to bring this essential service back to our community, and your response has been amazing!
Last year, we were able to partially relaunch the program by hiring Sara as a solo street worker. Sara has done some truly incredible work since then: supporting over 460 community members by sharing safer sex and drug use gear, intervening in crises, and supporting people with longer-term needs like mental health, housing, and employment. Still, working without a partner has limited Sara’s reach; NDG is just too big for one person to cover, and some spaces where street work can make the greatest impact aren’t always safe for her to access alone.
And so – this month, we’re very excited to introduce Paul, the second Head & Hands street worker! Paul comes to us with a true wealth of experience supporting youth with addiction, homelessness, and mental health as well as racism, poverty, and the legal system. His 8 years of work in this area include both community-based and government positions, including NDG’s Tracom crisis centre. He is also an artist, having directed multiple films on youth and homelessness and painted several murals for community organizations around the province!
When asked what he’s looking forward to doing here at H&H, Paul said he’s most excited about “keeping it simple, being real, and adding my own colours to the Head & Hands rainbow.” We can’t wait!!!
Since the re-launch of our Street Work program, Sara has been supporting youth through a variety of complex and sensitive challenges, including 14 suicide interventions. We sat down with Sara to learn more about how she is supporting these youth through their most difficult times.
H & H: How do you know if someone is considering suicide?
I listen for certain key words or phrases like “hopelessness” or “things don’t matter anymore.” Often the client is someone I have an ongoing relationship with and I’ll notice that they’ve lost interest in the things they normally do. These are red flags. I’ll then ask them, “Are you thinking suicide?” or “Are you thinking of hurting yourself?”
H&H: How do clients react?
Usually, they’ll just say “yes” or “no.” Or they’ll say, “No, but I think about it sometimes.” I think if people are suicidal, they feel a lot of relief that someone is not afraid to talk about it.
H&H: If a client says that they are suicidal, what do you do?
I say, “I’m really worried about you right now. These feelings can be some of the hardest we as humans can feel. It’s understandable you are having feelings of hopelessness.”
If you’re worried someone’s going to kill themselves, and if they’re in a state of shock, sometimes it can be good to be directive, while still checking in to make sure they’re on the same page as you. I provide and explore options with them, such as going to a crisis centre. I talk through the process with them so they know what to expect. I also let them know that we can make the call together, and that I can be with them – they don’t have to go through this alone.
H&H: What kind of follow-up do you do?
I get their permission to build a network of support with them by connecting them with various crisis and relevant support services. I follow up with the person to see how meetings are going with the other organizations and ask if there are other areas in their life they are looking for support with.
In addition to our street worker, our social counselor Rhonda provides support for people thinking about suicide. Our holistic approach means that we draw on a variety of networks at Head & Hands and in the larger community to support those going through difficult times.
If you or someone you know needs someone to talk to, you can contact Sara 514-377-9858 or call us at 514-481-0277 to make an appointment with our Social Counsellor, Rhonda.
You can also call Suicide Action Montreal at 514-723-4000 or Tracom at 514-483-3033.
Head & Hands will be closed on Monday, November 17th between the hours of 1:00 and 5:00 pm. Last year, after Quebec’s community organizations demonstrated a need for $225 million in additional funding, the previous provincial government committed to $162 million in funding increases. The current government has canceled even this modest commitment, and community groups across the province are joining together to express our outrage. There will also be a protest at Place Émilie Gamelin starting at 1:00 pm; attendees are asked to wear black. Feel free to access all our services as usual before 1:00 pm and after 5:00 pm on the 17th! We’ll be here at 10:00 am as usual, and will reopen at 5:00 to offer services until our usual closing time of 9:30 pm.
MedCoach brings together current medical school students and medical school hopefuls seeking help with their applications. Founded in 2012 by Leah Feldman, MedCoach has had a successful debut, coaching people from diverse backgrounds through the rigorous medical school application process. This year, they are donating 100% of their profits to support Head & Hands. We sat down with Leah to find out more.
Head & Hands: Tell us about MedCoach!
Leah: It is difficult for medical school hopefuls, who don’t know anyone in the field of medicine, to find someone to give them advice about what to expect and how to prepare for medical school. There are many groups that charge handfuls of money to revise your application, but the best way to know if you belong in medical school is to meet someone who is going through it.
MedCoach is a group of current medical students who are passionate about sharing their experiences in medical school and coaching people through the application process. We focus on understanding what it means to be in medical school/become a physician, CV and cover letter revision, and interview skills training, at an affordable price!
H&H: How does MedCoach support community organizations?
Leah: We want to support local charities while providing an amazing coaching service at a fair price. Every year, our coaches and coachees suggest and vote on a local charity to which we donate 100% of our earnings for that year.
H&H: Why did you choose Head & Hands as your community partner this year?
Leah: MedCoach looks for charities that are in line with our philosophy: to provide opportunities to everyone, regardless of where they come from or who they know. Head & Hands is a perfect example of an organization that provides a wealth of services to local youth and helps them achieve their goals.
H&H: What does the future have in store for MedCoach?
Leah: We’re looking to expand this year! We have more coaches and we are planning to host more events. Our fundraising goals are bigger this year, and we are looking forward to being able to donate even more to local charities. One of the biggest challenges for our team is spreading the word about MedCoach to CEGEPs and universities around Quebec. We would like to be able to offer services to anyone interested in pursuing a career in medicine!
H&H: How can people get involved?
Leah: If you have ideas about how to improve MedCoach, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit our Facebook page. If you know anyone (or maybe yourself) who is interested in learning about how to become a doctor, tell them to send us a message and we would be happy to set up a meeting!
Last Wednesday, the Young Parents Program (YPP) had lots of fun in the spirit of Halloween! 45 people, including YPP parents, children, staff, and volunteers, gathered together to turn YPP into a Halloween wonderland, complete with:
- a fabulous haunted house for the children, created and animated by 5 parents who may have enjoyed it even more than their young ones;
- a joint parent-child pumpkin decorating activity;
- decorating paper bags for candy and trick-or-treating around the YPP building;
- a costume contest for the parents, with prizes for the best, cutest, and scariest costumes;
- a potluck meal, with an amazing spread from squash and pasta to homemade bread;
- a dance party, of course!
No surprise, this YPP party was a grand success!