The “I am Me” Youth Project promotes and supports the mental well-being and the productivity of at risk youth aged between 10 to 24 years particularly those in the First Nations and Immigrants communities in Fredericton Great Area-Canada. This program has been recognized by the Provincial and Addictions Mental Health Leadership Council in New Brunswick as innovative, scalable and effective in addressing youth mental health challenges and it has benefited directly over 300 youth and their families in the year 2015/2016 alone.
The “I am Me” Youth Project is designed to breech gaps between beneficiaries and health care providers by establishing an unconventional intervention program that specifically target youth and serves to raise awareness and support them in making informed decisions . It does not follow the regular ways of adults designing activities. Rather, it has successfully formed a conventional language that the youth can relate to, adapt to and benefit from. With youth designing and leading conversations on issues affecting their mental wellbeing, they easily learn concrete approaches for taking control of their health by communicating emotions, educating, informing, inspiring and encouraging, remembering, coping and healing from losses, illness, tragedy, and building resilience. In addition, sports and games is a ‘language’ youth easily understand. In addition, with ECAAIR they are given an opportunity to be part of a social network through sport and game which directly improves their wellbeing. Youth mental healthcare is everyone’s business. We bring it away from institutional silos, top-down delivery, stigma, marginalization and despair. Furthermore, this project uniquely facilitates access of First Nations and Newcomer youths to mainstream mental health services which otherwise they may not benefit from.
“I am Me” Youth Project official launch in Fredericton, N.B. Canada
‘‘I am Me’’ Youth Project Stakeholders represented included: St. Mary’s First Nations Communities, Fredericton Police Force, Kingsclear First Nations Family Resource Center, Dot NB. , IWK Community Grants, Department of Education and Early Childhood Development, Province of New Brunswick , The City of Fredericton, The Red Cross , The Office of the Child and Youth Advocate for New Brunswick, Addictions and Mental Health, Horizon Health Network , and centre communautaire Sainte-Anne, and Public Health Department
Consultations between community Leaders, Youth and ECAAIR for youth and community input. Event held at St. Mary’s First Nations Cultural Center
‘‘I am Me” Youth program addresses mental wellness challenges through different programs including:
a. Interactive learning series on mental health and wellness education by the youth. These are a series of youth lead programs moderated by health professionals, community leaders and conducted on a weekly basis with youth engaging each other on issues which affect their wellness and working through a common language to advance their mental wellbeing and the productivity in schools, families and in the community.
Interactive learning series on mental health and wellness consist of topics such as:
– Understanding emotional and physical challenges;
– Mental health first aid;
– Dealing with mental health changes and building resilience;
– Dealing with siblings with mental health;
– Building confidence and trust to communicate emotional challenges;
– Mental Wellbeing and Addictions (e.g. consequences of drugs and preventive measures);
– Depression and Anxiety;
– Sharing and learning positive lifestyles and enhanced capacity to make informed and healthy choices; etc.
“I am Me” Youth sharing experiences on how to cope with emotional challenges with Dr. Ralia (Child Psychiatrist and Dr. Njoku (a psychiatrist with eperience working with war victims, veterans and general public).
Youth learning with ECAAIR experts (Mrs. Conners -a mental health nurse, Ms. Francis-a First Nations social worker and Ms. Tarry a counsellor) how to express feelings and get solutions through art.
“I am Me” Youth in Fredericton sharing experiences with First Nations youth from Miramichi-N.B about mental health challenges and solutions.
“I am Me” Youth gathering after a mental health learning session at the St Mary’s First Nation Cultural Center in Fredericton
b. Learning mental wellness through recreational activities and sports (we have designed an inclusive schedule of activities for games and sports events) with the goal to address youth mental wellbeing. This is provided on an ongoing basis. We have a list of community volunteers trained to facilitate these games. They include, social workers, health workers and community leaders.
Youth using the art of dance and music as a recreational activity to improve their wellbeing and productivity Youth improving their wellbeing through recreational activities (learning to control emotions when loosing or winning)
Youth learning circus as one of the activities to reduce anxiety and take control
Youth leaders engaging community in dialogues about mental wellbeing
c. Community leadership and engagement activities such as volunteerism, mentorship, advocacy and raising social awareness. This is a set of community activities that give an opportunity for youth to be mentored, build resilience, and have a sense of responsibility and network. Example of leadership activities offered by youth include fundraising, awareness raising and volunteering. Last year (2015/2016)alone the “I am Me” Youth participated in over 10 fundraising events e.g. Breakfast with the Premier to raise money for First Nations Children’s Fund, presented and volunteered at the International Summer Course on the Rights of the Child at the University of Moncton in New Brunswick.
Youth graduating from “I am Me” leadership program
Youth learning one on one how to express and deal with emotions through the art of using their pencils and papers
d. One on one support for children, youth and families. ECAAIR offers services to support children, youth and their families to access services that improve their wellbeing needs. Those services include referrals (e.g. to health systems, social development and counselling), support for those in legal systems (e.g. contacts with lawyers, police officers and language-cultural translation), and accompaniment in school systems (e.g. home work, meetings with the teachers and parents), etc. Each year over hundreds of children, youth and in some instances with their households have receive our one on one services.