Last week, the Janeway Children’s Hospital Foundation received a $50,000 grant from Canada Post Community Foundation to support our BRIDGES Program. They will be developing a mobile app to reach out to youth with mental illness throughout Newfoundland and Labrador. Before I tell you more about this app, I think it is important you understand its origins and inspiration – the BRIDGES Program’s waiting room.
Unique Waiting Room
Unlike the environment of many health care waiting areas, our waiting room is filled with art supplies and art work and we encourage youth to express themselves through artistically. The walls of the waiting room are filled with drawings, poems, quotes, songs, and much more.The response from those who enter the waiting room is always the same – they describe feeling “included” and that their feelings are “normal”. These feelings of validation and acceptance can be transformative and help these youth know that they are not alone and that it is okay to feel the way they do.
Sharing the love
Armed with the knowledge of how the artwork can send a powerful message to youth who are suffering, our clinicians felt the need to share the messages and lessons plastered on the walls of the waiting room with youth in their home communities. It seems that one of the most effective means of reaching out to youth is through their mobile devices, so we thought that a mobile app would bring the powerful messages on the colourful walls of the BRIDGES waiting room into the hands and hearts of youth.
We were not alone; Canada Post also believed in the idea and awarded BRIDGES a $50,000 grant to develop the app!
We will now embark on a journey to create an app that will allow us to share the exceptional art and words of teens, parents, teachers who have been touched with Mental Health issues in their own lives. The app will show youth that what they are experiencing is OK and that others have been there before them. Besides sharing the touching and poignant messages from our youth and supportive messages from parents, teachers and guidance counselors, this unique app will allow youth to have access to teen friendly resources (websites, crisis lines) and provide information on how to access services in their local area.
We know that many youth who need mental health services will not actually get the help they need. There can be many reasons for this – stigma and fear to reach out for help and not having the information of who can help, just to name a couple. Thanks to Canada Post, we can create an app to reach those youth who need help but have not yet sought services. By being proactive and providing a means of early intervention, hopefully we can prevent mental health emergencies, instead of dealing with the aftermath of them.
We look forward to developing this app and will be sure to let you know when it is available in your community! ■
This story was written by Sheila Stickland, Program Manager for the Child and Adolescent Mental Health and Addictions Program.