Teenagers often think they’ve got everything under control.
But when things go wrong, they can find themselves drifting into frightening territory, not knowing where to turn and convinced they’re the only person ever to suffer from a break-up, a drug addiction or bad grades.
While counselling services have existed for years, connecting with today’s youth has become more and more difficult.
Thunder Bay Counselling Centre, St. Joseph’s Care Group and Children’s Centre Thunder Bay have decided to speak their language to encourage more teens to come forward and seek help if they need it.
The organizations have rebranded the Integrated Youth Service System as UTurn, and on Tuesday launched a social media contest to help spread the word.
Zayma Gorfe thinks it’s a great idea.
The 18-year-old Sir Winston Churchill student has already taken the suicide prevention program Safe Talk, which provides peer-to-peer counselling for students thinking about taking their own life. Every little bit helps, the Grade 12 student said.
“It’s nice to have a safe place to go,” Gorfe said. “So I’m all for it, definitely.”
How successful the new brand will be is likely up to the individual. Not every teenager is ready to reach out, regardless of the platform.
It’s the nature of the beast, she said.
“Sometimes, when you’re talking to someone older you don’t know how they’re going to perceive it,” she said.
“Or they might not be able to relate to you on such a personal note. Sometimes they look at you a little different, like you don’t know what’s going to go through their head because experiences have changed. But I think depending on the person, depending on the situation, some might.”
TBCC executive director Nancy Chamberlain said the program simply needed a new look, an upgrade to meet the needs of today’s social media-savvy youth.
Rather than try to figure it out themselves, they turned to teens and asked them for input.
“This is what they told us,” Chamberlain said.
Whatever works, she added.
“We know from experience that youth who go through some of the programs, one of the most important things is to find out they’re not alone, to find out how they’re feeling is fairly normal and to have some professional and adult support, as well as youth support, to perhaps reduce suicide risk, to perhaps reduce that feeling of loneliness and to be able to start to see there are differences,” Chamberlain said.
The social media blitz includes a contest, the grand prize an iPad mini, which teens 13 to 18 can win by sharing their feelings on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter (@Uturn) using the #sharehowUfeel hashtag.
Janet Sillman, vice-president of mental health and addiction services at St. Joseph Care Group, said it’s time to let people know what services actually are out there. To date she said she thinks there has been a reluctance on the part of children and families to connect with mental health and addictions agencies because of stigma.
People are more and more aware of the issues, but they can’t do it alone.
“The rebranding, it brings it to the forefront and it provides the opportunity to connect, whether you’re a person who has problems, whether you’re a parent or whether you’re a friend of someone,” she said.
UTurn is funded by the North West Local Health Integration Unit.
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