On Saturday, October 1, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge made a stop in Victoria on their Royal tour of BC to meet with BC Children's Hospital representatives as well as volunteers, and patient and families from throughout the province to discuss child and youth mental health issues.
In the intimate meeting, Their Royal Highnesses heard very personal experiences about coping with mental health challenges and navigating the supports available throughout the province.
In the spirit of the visit with Royals - sharing stories about child and youth mental health to raise awareness and reduce stigma - we've asked a few of the event participants to share their thoughts and experiences.
"Our chat with the Royals was very relaxed and I really felt it was genuine engagement. Our discussion was about the importance of early intervention and also the importance of having somewhere for parents to go when they don’t know what to do about their child’s mental health. We discussed the value of having the Parent in Residence and Youth in Residence programs with the Force Society for Kids mental health available for peer support and navigation,” said Mary McCracken, Parent-in-Residence and proud mother of Connor, Kelty Youth Ambassador. The FORCE (Families Organized for Recognition and Care Equality) Society works with child and youth mental health at BC Children’s Hospital and Kelty. The Parent in Residence acts as a navigator and support for families of children and young people, and the Youth in Residence acts as a navigator and support for young people. Both roles work with systems to enhance services and find solutions where challenges may exist. The roles also promote the sharing of mental health information to families and youth to promote prevention and early intervention of mental health challenges.
Mary valued her time speaking with the Royals, emphasizing that "Opportunities such as this showcase the good work we do supporting families and youth at the Kelty Mental Health Resource Centre and highlights how we are blazing the trail with our provincial work with parent and youth peer support by staff of the Force Society for Kids Mental Health. These events help break down the stigma of mental health challenges by speaking about it. It raises awareness that people are not alone and where to get help."
Jasmine Rakhra, Kelty Youth Ambassador from Victoria, shared her thoughts as well: "The moment I will cherish from this conversation is the Duke and Duchess’s response when I had told them about my suicide attempts and how becoming involved with the Kelty Youth Ambassador Program in essence saved me, as I connected with youth who were just like me. I told them how I have built a close-knit family within this community and how my work has given my life a new purpose. The Duke’s reply was 'Well, we're very glad you're still here. You’re very brave and you should be very proud that you’ve shared your story’ The Duchess and I locked in eye contact and she thanked me for my contribution to mental health advocacy and for being there with them. This heartfelt moment is one that nearly brought tears to my eyes and made me feel connected to Duke and Duchess. In that moment, I saw them as being two caring and authentic individuals rather than Royalty."
"I would say that my chat with the royals was very inspiring and humbling,” said Dan Nixon, Summerland Youth Ambassador for Kelty. “We talked about the effects of mental health within the school system, as well as how those who have large influence within society can better advocate for mental health."
Andrea Vukobrat, Kelty Youth-in-Residence in Vancouver, summed up her experience with the Duke and Duchess by citing their international impact: “My lasting memory will be how intently they listened and how carefully they shared the conversation. They wanted to discuss the importance of early intervention and asked questions about my lived experience, but did so in a way that was entirely respectful. I could tell they genuinely wanted to learn and I think that as international figures their advocacy will have the kind of ripple effect that’s needed to reduce the stigma around mental health and inspire communities to take action."
We can all be a part of that ripple effect: Follow BC Children’s Hospital on Twitter at @BCChildrensHosp
and download our Twibbon
to help keep the conversation about child and youth mental health going through to World Mental Health Day, on Monday, October 10, 2016.