Still needing to be heard

A message that was clear at last year’s Youth Panel was repeated in 2022: Youth want to be heard. The difference is young people have had one more year dealing with the pandemic, another year to discover the shortcomings in mental health support and see adults in their lives become more and more exhausted.

Six young people from area high schools and the University of Toronto Mississauga, talked about managing school, wellness, and their ideas for change on May 11. Their panel was moderated by Dr. Dillon Browne of the Department of Psychology at the University of Waterloo. Dr. Browne is also Canada Research Chair in Child and Family Clinical Psychology.

Dr. Browne took information from the Youth Panel to create a follow-up workshop for parents, guardians, and other caregivers on May 18. It is part of a mental health series called “Supporting resilience in youth and families during and after the pandemic.”

He opened the session saying, “If I were to have another title for this talk, it would be something like “the importance of listening in families.”

“We really are not experts of anyone else’s experience. In order to understand the experience of the people we love, we must listen.”

Hear his suggested strategies for caregivers and families to support youth through their mental health challenges. The webinar is abbreviated to an hour.

What are kids saying?

Grade 9 student Anjali is looking forward to learning how to drive and a graduation ceremony (finally). Like Grade 12 student Merna, she keeps busy at school and finds peace in a highly organized day. The two young women, from different schools in Erin Mills, served last month on a youth panel moderated by Dr. Dillon Browne, a researcher and clinical psychologist from the University of Waterloo. Youth answered questions about finding balance in life and what their futures hold.

Most striking were students’ answers about how the community can help young people. They spoke of how mental health supports aren’t keeping up. One Grade 12 student, Anita, suggested there is a lack of education: “I think a really big way to support a lot of our generation is providing…tools for us to be able to identify what we’re struggling with and how to express that to other people.”

Grade 11 student Eric talked about not having enough accessible counselling: “One thing we can do to help youth is try to allocate more funds to public counselling, to public therapy…right now there is a huge backlog.”

They didn’t blame individuals. In fact, many said they were grateful to parents, teachers and other caregivers who listen carefully. Anis, a Grade 12 student, knows the additional roles teachers have in mental health and the cost to their well-being. He added that their “not being able to listen to us as much as before, even to help us as much as before, has definitely impacted…our daily lives.”

Listen to the 48-minute abridged podcast of the webinar held on May 11 with Erin Mills area high school and post-secondary students.  It is the first part of a two-week series led by Dr. Browne entitled “Supporting resilience in youth and families during and after the pandemic.”

Part 1: Youth Panel Podcast with Dr. Dillon Browne, introduction by Namita Parmar

Part 2: Dr. Dillon Browne of the University of Waterloo provides strategies to caregivers for the support of their youth. Click here or the image to begin the webinar.

(64 minutes)

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