Local organizations to host youth mental health forum

WELLINGTON COUNTY – The Grove Wellington Guelph, the Canadian Mental Health Association Waterloo Wellington (CMHAWW) and The Children’s Foundation of Guelph Wellington (CFGW) are hosting a youth mental health forum in hopes of normalizing conversations around asking for help. 

The event will take place on Sept. 13 at The Frank Hasenfratz Centre for Excellence in Manufacturing in Guelph. 

The forum will invite youths, parents, caregivers and service providers to actively engage in the discussion around youth mental health and to help generate creative solutions, with the goal of supporting the wellness of youth in the community, states an Aug. 8 press release. 

“We’re seeing a large spike in mental health issues among youth in our community,” Cyndy Moffat Forsyth, executive director of The Grove Wellington Guelph, told the Advertiser.  

“We knew that we were facing a crisis in 2018, but it’s just gone through the roof because of COVID. 

“And we think we’re going to be in this situation for quite a few years as we recover.”

The hope for the forum is to normalize asking for help and help the community learn how to build resiliency, what services are available and how to access what youth need when they need them. 

With opening remarks from Minister of Mental Health and Addiction Michael Tibollo, participants will hear different perspectives on the issue of youth mental health from executive director of Youth Wellness Hubs Ontario Dr. Joanna Henderson, as well as CMHAWW and CFGW officials, local school boards, service agencies, parents and caregivers, the release notes. 

The event provides an opportunity for local organizations to reach out to community members and policy makers to discuss how they can help youth recover and build resiliency, Moffat Forsyth explained. 

“Most mental health issues start materializing in young adolescents,” she said. 

“And so if we can catch some of these issues early on in their adolescent development we can help youth understand what they’re going through, help them build coping strategies and get them help sooner if we can identify what the problems are early.”

As for normalizing conversations around mental health, Moffat Forsyth said the first thing people need to do is start talking about it. 

While the community is doing a much better job of that than ever before, there’s still more work to be done, she stressed. 

“We need our community to keep talking and keep normalizing talking about mental wellness and mental health,” she added.

“And so this forum will help bring it to the forefront and really help our community – adults, adolescents and youth – keep the conversation going.

“It’s okay to say ‘I’m having a bad day’ and ask somebody for help. So it’s about building trusting relationships so that we can be open to those conversations.”

Through partnerships between organizations and as a community, Moffat Forsyth said the goal is to provide safe places for youth to feel a sense of belonging by building trusting relationships so that when they do feel the need to talk to someone they not only have places to go, but they already have a pre-established relationship. 

“One of the things that we really want to focus on is making sure people are keenly aware that this problem is not going to go away on its own,” Moffat Forsyth said, which means everyone coming to the table – parents, community, corporate partners.

That also means all levels of government: municipal, provincial and federal.

“We all need to be working together,” she reiterated. “So whether you are a parent, or whether you are a leader in your community, you run a business, we all have a role to play.”

One of the key indicators of successful youth development, Moffat Forsyth explained, is having a positive role model. 

“If youth have a positive role model in their life, they are more likely to develop and grow,” she explained. 

“So it really starts with what can we do as a community and that’s really what this forum is all about.

“If we’re going to address this, if we’re serious about it and we want to build a better future for ourselves in our community, we’ve got to focus on youth – we have to.”

For those interested in helping youth the forum is a great opportunity to participate, and to help educate the community, Moffat Forsyth explained. 

The forum will be held on Sept. 13, with registration opening at 7:30am and including a continental breakfast. Official programming begins at 8am and will end at 12pm. Pre-registration is now open and on a first come, first served basis.  

Participants can register at www.eventbrite.ca.