A Connection Between the Physical and the Mental

The Mental Health Foundation are teaching the kids a few things about their mental health and technology

In a time when physical health is at the forefront, there are those who understand that mental health is equally important. Enter the Mental Health Foundation (MHF).

“The pandemic has shone an even brighter spotlight on the importance of mental health,” says Sam Fitzer, communications lead for the MHF. “Young people, particularly, are living in a weird limbo where everything – school, work, and the ability to access resources – has been disrupted.”

With this in mind, the MHF helped create and is now the financial steward of the Alberta Integrated Youth Services Initiative (AB-IYSI). But the work is not done.

“COVID-19 interrupted AB-IYSI’s ability to move forward with plans to begin work on the development of physical centres for youth to access services,” Fitzer says. “As well as work in the community to develop partnerships.

“While virtual supports were always planned as part of youth services at AB-IYSI, this part of the model needed to be accelerated as a result of the pandemic, so that we could bridge the gap in accessible programming due to the need to social distance.”

This is where Edmonton Community Foundation (ECF) came in. On June 11, ECF funded $75,000 to the AHF to help create a digital platform for young people and families/caregivers in Alberta to access resources, tools, and services pertaining to their health and wellness.

This donation was also part of the Government of Canada’s $350-million Emergency Community Support Fund (ECSF) which aims to help charities and non-profit organizations. Together with the Canadian Red Cross, Community Foundations of Canada and United Way Centraide Canada are collaborating to flow ECSF support to those who need it most right now.

“As the youth and caregivers engagement was carried out, it became clear that the need for an future uptake of virtual services will be huge,” says Fitzer.

AB-IYSI is anticipating a mid-November launch for their website and will include text- and chat-based support and resources that can be tailored by youth for individual toolkits. As well, a virtual clinic is on the horizon to offer support through video conferencing.

“The funding provided through this grant was a catalyst for the development of this clinic. And when it launches, youth across Alberta who are feeling the stress of isolation will have support in real time,” Fitzer says.

“Many young people have expressed their disbelief that the kind of work AB-IYSI is doing is possible,” he adds. “It is a novelty to them that adults are actually asking for their input in a process where the final outcome is for them. It’s rewarding to see youth have their experience validated and valued, and we believe the services developed will be more valuable and effective because of it.”

Learn more about the Emergency Community Support Fund.