Amid ongoing concerns around the COVID-19 pandemic, North Grenville’s WAY Collaborative [Wellness Access for Youth] is offering some basic tips to support children and youth experiencing heightened stress and anxiety and manage their mental health.
“It’s normal to feel worried and overwhelmed during these uncertain times,” said Lorena Crosbie, Executive Director of Children’s Mental Health of Leeds and Grenville, a founding WAY partner. “And if you are already experiencing mental health issues, they could be exacerbated by the events unfolding day by day.”
WAY – Wellness Access for Youth – was formerly known as the Mental Health and Addictions Health Hub for Children and Youth in North Grenville. In addition to releasing the coping tips, the WAY Collaborative also launched a new 800-line on Monday, April 6 2020 at 9:00 am: 1-866-741-1WAY (1929).
“Access to a wide range of services is now just a phone call away,” said Frank Vassallo, the CEO of Kemptville District Hospital, which has been working on the WAY initiative with close to 20 community partners since early 2018. “Children and youth and/or their families and caregivers just need to make one call, and WAY will connect them to the help they need.”
A good first step might be an appointment with a Children’s Mental Health of Leeds and Grenville counsellor, Lorena Crosbie explained. For youth who need help with housing, employment or support while waiting for a referral, WAY will put them in touch with Connect Youth. WAY can also connect parents and caregivers to help through PLEO – Parents’ Lifelines of Eastern Ontario.
Five tips to support mental health during the CVID-19 pandemic:
- Notice your feelings, and accept them: You may have noticed changes in yourself, over the last few weeks, days, or even hours. Maybe your head hurts, or you have a stomach ache even though you know you didn’t eat a whole bag of candy like that one time…or maybe you feel so tired you could sleep for days. It’s natural for kids to feel all of these things when it seems like situations are outside of our control. Sometimes our bodies are trying to tell us that we feel worried, or confused, or sad, or lonely, or angry, or scared. Sometimes our feelings change quickly, and sometimes we feel everything all rolled up into one. Sometimes we may even think we feel nothing at all. All of these feelings are natural, and they are important because they are yours. Noticing your feelings, and letting them out is the best thing you can do to help yourself feel better. But how do you do this?
- Reach out to your supports: Ask yourself, ‘Who can help me with these feelings?’ Pick someone you trust. Maybe it’s your mom or your dad or a big sister or brother. Maybe it’s your pet cat, who is a really good listener, or maybe it’s another trusted adult whom you could talk to by phone. Sometimes talking can seem too hard, or there doesn’t seem to be a right place to start. It can be helpful to draw your feelings, or to write about them. The key is getting them out safely, so they aren’t left hanging around inside. You can talk to your counsellor if you have one, or call WAY to talk.
- Focus on what you can control: When you’re going through a lot of changes, it can be comforting to remind yourself what you do have control over. You can ask for help when you need it, from a family member or a trusted adult. You can also ask for the things you need. Some days that might be a hug from someone you love, or to hear that it’s okay to feel how you feel, or for someone to tell you this won’t last forever and we’re all in it together. Other times you might want some space to yourself, and that’s okay too. We can also keep ourselves safe, by following information from trusted adults about staying at home and washing our hands and coughing or sneezing into our elbow.
- Keep doing activities you love: It’s also important to keep doing activities you love – reading stories, watching movies, playing board games, singing and dancing, and connecting with the people you care about. Although you may not be able to be in the same space as everyone you care about because of the need for physical distancing, there are lots of ways to stay connected using your smartphone or tablet, or spending time with others in your home.
- Contact other supports if needed: Call WAY at 1-866-741-1WAY (1929) to speak to a counsellor about current stress and anxiety or any mental health issue, and to get connected to any of the WAY partners whose services you need.
The WAY 800-line is answered Monday to Friday 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and Wednesdays until 7:00 p.m. After hours please leave a message and your call will be returned within 24 hours. During the pandemic, services are provided over the phone. KIDS Help Phone – 1-800-668-6868.
WAY – Wellness Access for Youth – is a collaborative made up of service providers who provide, refer, and support mental health and addictions services for children and youth aged 12 to 25 years of age in North Grenville. The overall goal of WAY is to increase access to safe, ef- ficient, effective, timely and equitable integrated mental health and addictions ser- vices for children, youth and families living in North Grenville. WAY will be an integral component of the North Rideau Health Alliance Ontario Health Team. www. kdh.on.ca/WAY.
With thanks to Cheryl Gaumont and Samantha Schokking of Children’s Mental Health of Leeds and Grenville for developing the tips.