Front L-R: Harry Goerz

An app for everything

Youth in Fort St. James are working on an app which could help youth in the community.

Youth in Fort St. James came up with a rather creative, yet perhaps obvious idea on how to help better youth mental health in the community.

They are going to make an app for it.

While the solution will involve input from the entire community, it will offer area youth a one-stop shop for where to find out what is happening, ideas for positive change for youth in the community, and somewhere they can go to find out information on what resources are available for mental health for youth.

Events, opportunities and services will be added, which is where the broader community can get involved.

The idea has been born by a project which started out with two university students working on a project Researching Adolescent Distress and Resilience (RADAR).

The study involved interviewing 27 students in Fort St. James, as well as students in both Vancouver and Abbotsford, to gain a better understanding of young people’s mental health and what helps them to cope.

The interviews in Fort St. James took place in September of 2012.

A report detailing the findings of the study was presented in the community in May.

The findings of the study discovered youth in Fort St. James are dealing with different issues than those in the more urban areas, and the top causes of stress in Fort youth were issues of substance abuse, racism and bullying (which was cited as often being related to racism as well).

After this, researcher Emily Jenkins has begun a new aspect of her work in youth mental health to actually do something about the findings.

Jenkins has been continuing to work with youth on possible solutions to improve things for youth in terms of mental health, and began by hiring 10 students of Fort St. James Secondary School to work with her.

She interviewed 25 youth for the positions, and tried to get a cross section of youth in the community to work with.

The 10 youth were then given iPads and have been paid to attend weekly videoconferences with Jenkins.

“Hopefully with this group we’ll be able to reach  a decent number of kids at the school,” said Jenkins.

She said underlying the factors impacting youth mental health was an overlying feeling there is not a lot for young people to do in Fort St. James.

Through the meetings, and some other activities a number of youth have come to realize there are more opportunities than they realized, but youth were not always aware of them.

So the group has been having discussions to come up with a plan to address concerns for youth, and the app idea was born to help engage directly with area youth.

“It’s really a platform for developing and facilitating that engagement,” said Jenkins.

They are already working with an application developer and Jenkins was in Fort to finalize some of the ideas as well as complete research prior to the application being created to see if after it is released there is any change for youth in the community.

The app with not actually be strictly a smartphone application, but instead a mobile web site, so it could also easily be accessed from personal computers for those who don’t have smartphones.

Three of the 10 youth working with Jenkins presented the idea to council last week and the concept was well-received and Mayor Rob MacDougall said council is willing to help with the program if possible and asked the group to keep council updated on their progress.

MacDougall also pointed out the different things the District of Fort St. James is working on to help create more activities for youth, including the downtown ski and snowboard terrain park planned for near the arena, the community hall and the theatre within the hall.

Report from RADAR study (Fort St. James is Town A)