Let’s talk – youth mental health

Forum to open up communication and ensure youth and families at the centre of care teams

  • May. 4, 2015 12:00 p.m.

Michele Taylor

Caledonia Courier

Allison Zaporozan has a goal. Her aim is to bring mental health issues out into the open for youth and their families dealing with what she said is an often confusing and uncoordinated system of care for youth in need.

Zaporozan has been co-ordinating a forum she hopes will open up communication and make sure that youth and families are at the centre of their care team.

“Many times they are kind of outside of it and people are making decisions and not asking what they need,” she said. “I wanted to bring agencies, services and care providers in the community together.”

She said, as a parent with a child who struggles with mental health issues and thoughts of suicide herself, she didn’t know what was available to help and took time off work in order to be available for her daughter during a time of crisis.

“As a parent who needed something I didn’t know that, and I wasn’t able to find resources,” Zaporozan said.

Zaporozan said another goal is to bring together a local action team that can foster the changes needed in the community by bringing together service providers and creating a resource bank that youth or their families can use to find the care they need.

“One of my goals is to be an advocate for families that aren’t able to help themselves. It was a full-time job to find just the right thing for (my daughter), but also what we needed for our family.”

She said the journey for beginning the work on bringing community partners, service and families together began with an invitation to the Child and Youth Mental Health Substance-Use Collaborative Congress meeting in Kelowna. Zaporozan said she was invited to the congress after writing a feedback letter, which she sent to a number of outlets in response to their experience with the adolescent psychiatric unit in Prince George.

“It was an awful experience, on a whole bunch of levels for us and for (our daughter),” she said. “The kids’ experiences was not what you thought it was going to be when you put them in there. My daughter went voluntarily, she wanted to be helped … she was there looking for an answer.”

After sending the letter out Zaporozan received a call from Mary Morrison, Manager, Youth Services and Eating Disorders at Northern Health Authority, she said Morrison indicated that suggestions from both Zaporozan and her daughter were valid and would be helpful in making changes in the department. Zaporozan said that Morrison passed her information on to The F.O.R.C.E. Society for Kids’ Mental Health, which sponsored Zaporozan to attend the congress.

“I just went to one on spring break that was in Vancouver,” she said.

“It’s an amazing, amazing thing. There were 400 people in one room … this is what makes me … that we’re all there for the same reason,” she said of being a part of the congress. Zaporozan said she feels honoured to be a part of such a group.

“It let me be able to come home and think, how can I make changes for other families?”

As her first step in opening up avenues for information Zaporozan has facilitated a public forum, Share the Care, which will be taking place May 12, at the FSJ Curling Rink at 7 p.m. She said the forum will “bring community partners together, develop strong relationships, educate one another, build on the already existing infrastructure, remove local and system barriers and innovate at the community level for Fort St. James.”

Zaporozan said it’s a great support for families to meet, find resources and network and is what she feels she needed to bring to the community in Fort St. James.

“Everybody’s rowing the same boat.”


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