THUNDER BAY – Healthbeat – “Everyone needs help sometimes.” That’s the message on the HerestheDeal.ca, a website developed by the Thunder Bay Youth Suicide Prevention Task Force. It provides information, coping strategies, and links to community organizations for youth and their caregivers (parents, teachers, coaches, etc.) about depression and mental illness. The website is offered in English, French, and Ojibway.
“Whether it is to help with school, work, friends, mental health – that is what this site is about. We want to give you useful information about mental health, and where you can go if you want to talk someone. You don’t have to deal with your problems alone.”
The website is part of a wider strategy to reduce youth suicide and increase awareness about it.
In March 2007, two Thunder Bay youths committed suicide within a week of each other. Area schools asked for help from local mental health agencies to help its students deal with the tragedy. But the truth was, no single agency in the area had the resources or specific strategies to help.
“Crisis is opportunity,” said Angela Hill, Coordinator of the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Unit at the Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre. “As a community, we respond well during the crisis. Consequently, we took an opportunity to figure out how we could come together as a community to care for all of our children.”
As a result of the tragedies, a coalition of community organizations, now 26 strong, came together to form the Thunder Bay Youth Suicide Prevention Task Force.
The website offers facts on a wide variety disorders and circumstances related to mental health including suicide, bipolar disorder, eating disorders, gender identity, sexual abuse and assault, depression, and others.
Much of the information is directed at the youth themselves, but there are also sections dedicated to parents, teachers, and coaches to help them identify youth who may be at risk of suicide or struggling with mental health issues.
The website also has links to the many agencies in Thunder Bay who can help.
“Increasing awareness is the biggest aspect of (the Youth Suicide Prevention Task Force),” Hill said. “Suicide is probably the last taboo. We talk about HIV, we talk about drugs, talk about sexuality, but we don’t talk about suicide.”
Youth, parents, teachers, coaches, and anyone involved with youths are encouraged to visit heresthedeal.ca to find out more about mental health issues, suicide prevention, and local organizations that can help.