Ooknakane Friendship Centre is initiating a youth mental health program to foster resilience in children and youth up to 24 years.
It’s part of a process to help individuals deal with the stress created by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We believe it is important to stay connected and support each other, especially during this time,” said Muhammad Salyani, a youth mental health support worker at Ooknakane Friendship Centre. “I would like to reach out to children and youth who would like to discuss any issues or who are feeling lonely. These services, as well as all services provided by the centre, are completely free of charge.”
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, services are limited to voice or video chat, including Skype, Zoom, Facebook Messenger, and Google Hangouts.
“Through the youth mental health program, we put resources and skills in place. It can either be skills they have learned, activities they can turn to, or relationships with family members they have available to them,” said Salyani. “We want youth to be in control of the decisions they make. We don't want to force them into anything. This is their chance to take control of their health.”
Most of the program was built around activities that could foster creative skills and resources, such as archery skills, culinary skills, horse riding or equestrian skills.
Unfortunately, COVID-19 makes it impossible for youth to gather as groups.
“A lot of those have fallen by the wayside because we are not able to provide them,” said Salyani. “We’ve had to change what we can provide and how we’re thinking of providing it, such as more voice and video chat. Youth would have to have access to it and be able to use it pretty confidently.
“We just want to reach out to individuals.”
Salyani believes COVID-19 has had a huge impact on youth, who can’t see friends and connect with them.
“For my sister, it was going to the mall with her friends or going out for something to eat with their friends. That’s not really happening right now,” said Sulyani. “Some kids are finding ways around that. Most kids are connected online, and are playing video games together. That’s the way some of them have kept up their friendships. But it's more difficult for kids who are active.”
The point Salyani would like to get across to youth is simple — talk to someone.
“We have multiple people working over here. We do have more traditional methods of service. We have empathic listening sessions where if somebody needs to talk, we’re there,” he said. “We also have more traditional therapies — cognitive behavioral therapy, dialectic therapy, narrative therapy, and solution based therapy. We’re there just to connect.
“We’ve also connected with some elders with the Penticton Indian Band that indigenious youth might want to talk to.”
If you know of any children or youth that could benefit from an extra person to talk to, or if you have any questions, email [email protected].
For more details on Ooknakane Friendship Centre, click here.