Several organizations have banded together to stem the tide of youth suicide, depression and isolation, through something called The Help Project.
It will be accessible all children in the Fraser Cascade school district, and is aimed at educating, awareness and open discussion. One of the organizations involved is the Agassiz public library, along with librarian Terrill Scott.
Sadness is one thing, she says, but there are times when children need more than just a hug from a parent, or a chat with a friend.
There are so many song lyrics that can help someone through tough situations, she says.
‘We get by with a little help from our friends’ comes to mind, and ‘we are family.’
“We know the songs and the words can keep us connected when we need it,” Scott says. “But there are times when friends can’t lend a hand, and family is just not the thing. There are times when it takes more to get over tough times.”
This is when the Help Project can step in. Local agencies, including the schools, are hoping to bring help closer to kids who need it.
Scott cites information from the World Health Organization, a group that also keeps tabs on the mental health of children.
“Growing up is not easy,” WHO states. “Children and teenagers face many tough decisions and difficult life experiences that, at times, seem overwhelming. Each and every member of society can take effective action, which would lead to saving a life. Talking about a personal crisis, learning about what brings on depression and mental health problems cannot be underestimated in the help they give to the isolated and suffering.”
With this in mind, those behind the Help Project say they will work to this end. To provide confidential, safe access to information that helps youth and to make the whole community aware of the seriousness of this issue in the area’s small towns.
“Knowledge is ultimately the power to make a difference,” Scott says.
There are many ways residents can become part of the Help Project, including participating in an art contest.
The images used for the project will come from children and youth in local communities. A contest is being run asking for entries to produce the image to go on these resources. Teachers at all Fraser Cascade schools are being informed about the contest, and provided with entry sheets to share with all students, Grades K to 12.
The winner’s image will be used on promotional and awareness materials. They will be encouraging images produced in any form — on paper with pen or colour or computer generated – and in any way imaginable. The deadline for entries to the contest is the end of November. Entry forms for this contest will be distributed in the schools or can be picked up at your local library in Hope or Agassiz.
Scott says parents should encourage their children to enter the contest, and to use the contest as an opening itself to increase family awareness of how to handle the hard times.
“Be part of this project by educating yourself and your family on the signs of crises and getting rid of the secrecy surrounding mental health issues,” she says. “We will be the change in our communities, we will help.”
There is a need in our area to provide children and youth with the information they need to be able to find help for themselves or a friend, in a safe, confidential way, Scott says. “The world has changed but the reasons that young people do not seek help have not changed. Fear, shame, shyness or isolation, are the same old reasons that young people face, no matter what the era, but what does change is how we can spread the word that help is always there – a phone call, finger click or scan away.”
What it Help?
This project seeks to engage the community by informing them of the resources available to young people who need emotional support in general or in crises.
This is to be done by distributing a wallet card and posters and maintain this information with a website. The project has the goal of making resources and awareness a stable, sustainable means of keeping ‘help’ resources in the view of the public, not just a temporary campaign.
Backpack straps or wallet cards will be produced and had a special QR barcode on it that connects mobile devices to a website of help resources, entry level phone contact numbers, and a sponsorship offer on the flip side that encourages keeping this item.
Posters will also be produced that have straightforward information and the QR barcode to catch the eye and be available around town, so there is access can be everywhere possible out in public.