A new initiative from a Pemberton mental health group is working to connect youth with local mental health resources in a way that will grab their attention.
Plan-Y — which stands for Pemberton, Lil’wat and Lower Lakes, Area C , N’Quatqua and Youth — is a new web-based wellness directory that functions like an app to connect young people to locally-based services like counsellors, websites, 24-hour support lines, volunteer opportunities, employment services centres, clinics, community centres and even food banks, to name just a few.
“Our hope is that if there’s a youth in crisis, they’ve got access to this and don’t have to go searching for ‘what is this number? How do I find that?’” said Nancy Lee, project coordinator for the Child and Youth Mental Health and Substance Use (CYMHSU) Collaborative’s Pemberton local action team, the group behind the initiative. “They can go on their phone and click ‘urgent help’ and call right away.”
The website is designed specifically with youth and their habits in mind: the visually-appealing, user-friendly web page is meant to be used on cell phones, iPods and tablets, and includes features like direct links to mental health crisis hotlines and a “quick hide” button that brings users to an Instagram page. It also allows users to create personalized lists of their preferred services and share them with friends, and allows them to bookmark the site so they can return to the page without internet access — a particularly useful feature for those used to dealing with spotty or non-existent cell reception or internet.
Targeted towards youth aged 12 to 24, the group’s vision is for every young person in the Pemberton area to save the website to their phone — something Lee said would help the local action team meet their goal of ensuring children, youth and their families know where to find support and services locally.
Pemberton’s CYMHSU Local Action team, comprised of mental health service providers, counsellors, educators, police, First Nations community leaders and healthcare providers, meet monthly to discuss mental health-based initiatives for the region’s youth. They’re one of 64 teams around the province as part of the CYMHSU Collaborative, jointly funded by the provincial government and Doctors of BC.
“We had looked at things like a resource guide or a list, but paper-based materials get out of date really quickly,” Lee said. “They’re hard to update, and people — especially youth — don’t tend to look at paper.”
Plan-Y was inspired by a similar website created by the three North Shore municipalities as part of the CYMHSU collaborative, but with a uniquely Pemberton flair, Lee added.
“Pemberton, quite often in the Sea to Sky, doesn’t get the attention and doesn’t have the money and funding that some of the other communities in the corridor do. This is something we’re pretty proud to put a stamp on and make it something unique to our area,” she said. “There is help out there. Their community is a caring community, there are lots of resources out there and lots of people willing to help (youth) with their struggles.”
The website has, so far, been a hit. The local action team tested the website in late February where 18 students from three area schools had a chance to try it out. “We kind of let them loose and didn’t explain a lot, and they were flying through this unbelievably fast,” Lee explained. “It was really successful… There was one girl who didn’t say very much during the test, but when she went back to school she immediately went to a trusted adult, showed them it and said ‘look at this, isn’t this cool?’ That was worth it.”