A new report released this week is bringing attention to mental health challenges faced by more than 10,000 youth across the province—and actions at the grassroots level to ignite change.
The Saskatchewan Alliance for Youth and Community Well-being (SAYCW) is a health, education and community partnership aimed at improving the health and well-being of Saskatchewan citizens. In 2019, the organization surveyed more than 10,000 Saskatchewan students and teachers as part of its Thriving Youth, Thriving Community survey, touching on a variety of factors that influence young peoples’ health and well-being. Based on the data collected in the 2019 survey, the SAYCW Mental Health Action Report looks at the importance of support and connection, provides examples of grassroots movements that are igniting change, and offers potential actions for readers to take to help improve youth mental health. This report is now available through the SAYCW website. The SAYCW data was also featured in the recent Child and Youth Advocate’s report, both of which highlight youth mental health in the province.
Some of the key takeaways:
- Poor mental health outcomes are strongly associated with traumatic events commonly experienced by many youth, including bullying and dating violence. Youth who reported traumatic events reported higher levels of poor mental health outcomes than their peers.
- Saskatchewan youth were reporting concerning levels of depressive symptoms, high-risk behaviours, and traumatic experiences before the pandemic. Early results from other research suggests the pandemic is exacerbating existing mental health problems.
- Mental health programs and interventions for youth should focus on those factors shown to provide the most protection against adverse mental health outcomes such as depressive symptoms, self-harm, and suicide.
- Feeling supported by and connected to friends, families, school, and community gives young people the strongest protection when they experience trauma or struggle with their mental health.
“I think that there should be more support in our school system for people who are being bullied,” a Grade 10 girl responded in the survey. “There are many circumstances where someone is being bullied, they try to speak up, and they are shot down.” Another respondent, also a Grade 10 girl, put it bluntly: “We need more mental health and suicide support in our schools.”
Health and well-being supports can come in many forms, ranging from resources and toolkits, to grant and program funding, grassroots initiatives, and collaborations working toward a common goal. SAYCW works to facilitate these connections, develop partnerships, and share information through its networks. Past successful partnerships included a nutrition literacy class at North Battleford’s Sakewew High School, 2SLGBTQ+ programming in Moose Jaw and mental health first aid training at Prince Albert Collegiate Institute.
Now sponsored by the Health Quality Council (HQC), SAYCW is looking to broaden its stakeholder network as part of HQC’s Youth Mental Health Sharing and Learning Community. In this community, members can engage in collective learning to support like-minded organizations in their efforts to improve youth mental health and well-being in Saskatchewan.
To learn more about the Sharing and Learning Community, please visit the HQC website.