Mental Health Camp recap

Last Saturday I had the opportunity to present at Mental Health Camp. The theme of this year’s conference was "Breaking the Silence" so my presentation spoke to our use of "On the House" in helping to break the silence around mental illness. I spent some time giving background on how our mental health program came to be and the amazing results the initial pilot project produced (which lead to the program becoming a permanent offering at Covenant House), such as:

The average wait-time for a youth to see a psychiatrist has gone from 6 months to 8 days

Last Saturday I had the opportunity to present at Mental Health Camp. The theme of this year’s conference was "Breaking the Silence" so my presentation spoke to our use of "On the House" in helping to break the silence around mental illness. I spent some time giving background on how our mental health program came to be and the amazing results the initial pilot project produced (which lead to the program becoming a permanent offering at Covenant House), such as:

The average wait-time for a youth to see a psychiatrist has gone from 6 months to 8 days

a reduction in missed psychiatric appointments from 56% to 15%

an increase in the length of stay in the shelter from 9 to 21 days (when a young person stays in the shelter 20 days or more, they have a higher likelihood of maintaining independence after leaving)

psychiatric care is taking place where the youth are typically more comfortable (Covenant House) versus in a clinic or hospital setting unless necessary; (it often takes up to six visits at CHV before the youth is comfortable seeing the psychiatrists off-site)

Youth continue to present for appointments even when not in the Shelter (will call in if they have left town)

I explained how our blog was utilizing the creative works of our youth and how I sometimes struggle with this. I was very eager to learn what people thought about youth participation on the blog. We’ve talked about this before and the comments were encouraging so I asked the delegates what they thought: is posting youth art potentially harmful to their reputations or an authentic and meaningful form of expression? While people acknowledged that there is always a risk when someone "put themselves out there" on the web (ie. Youth poetry, prose or artwork), they argued that it is no different than you or I doing it – we all might regret over sharing at some point in the future.

In terms of whether "outing" oneself as a Covenant House client or one with mental illness and what impact that might have for someone’s future employment prospects, for example, one delegate (a young man in his early 20s I would guess) made a very salient point: he suggests that employers are beginning to welcome, nut shun, someone who has overcome a hardship like a mental illness or homelessness; that resilience is recognized and honoured. I thought this was an interesting point of view.

Overwhelmingly, the people I talked with admire what we are doing with our blog and they think it is great that we are publishing our young people’s work. They were supportive and encouraged me to get more youth involvement recognizing that the more "truth" there is on the web about mental health, the more people will understand the complexity and prevalence of an infliction many people will face at some point in their lives.

Thank you to Raul Pacheo and Isabella Mori for organizing Mental Health Camp; it was an honour to be part of it and I look forward to next year.

Youth photography – by Kevin