Most people will never have heard of the Langley Local Action Team (LAT).
But the work it does is intended to help some of the community’s most vulnerable residents – teens with mental health issues.
Walk it off or suck it up are not workable solutions for youth mental illness.
Instead, the LAT wants to get rid of the stigma around youth mental health so people feel they can reach out for help.
“We’re seeing it increasing and there are lots of ways that if we intervene earlier, youth and families can help themselves,” said Ellen Peterson, executive director with the Langley Division of Family Practice, one of the participating groups in LAT.
The LAT includes about 35 different people and agencies ranging from health professionals, educators and social service agencies to police, First Nations and municipal government. There’s also youth representation.
While the provincial government created the Child and Youth Mental Health and Substance Use (CYMHSU) Collaborative, it’s the local action teams that tailor the youth mental health efforts to their communities.
Langley’s team has been active, increasing resources for youth mental health and creating plans to increase public awareness of the key issues involved.
Peterson explained that the best option is to get kids help before “things are acute or they are in a crisis” and the goal is to give them coping skills, support and resources.
“One really important thing is these are youth approved resources,” Peterson noted.
Young people sit on LAT and youth organizations have helped in the creation of its materials.
It’s critical that young people buy into the work for it to be successful.
“If you talk to youth these days, they know, its their friends, themselves and their families,” Peterson said.
LAT is working on creating a hub for young people to access mental health and other services locally.
“The youth have really told us there is no place for them to go,” she said.
LAT expects to have a hub ready to go in the coming weeks. Peterson said the feedback from youth has been that they feel unwelcome in their own community because there are no places to go when they are in need of help.
As part of the LAT work, young people and families are invited to a mental health fair on Friday at Douglas Park.
From 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on May 6, people can find out about local resources for youth mental health, and have some fun.
“We’re trying to raise awareness,” said Ellen Peterson, the executive director of Langley . “We’re bringing the community together to try and remove barriers.
The LAT is hoping attendees will try out some yoga and is giving away yoga mats to the first 200 people to attend. Barb Stack explained yoga is one of the tools young people can use to help. In addition to the exercise benefits, it encourages mindfulness and offers breathing techniques.
At Fridays event, the winners of the LAT poster contest will be announced. Young people were invited to create posters based on one of four themes – sadness, worry, self harm and stress.
Because mental health affects the whole family, there are activities for toddlers at the mental health fair. There’s a toddler area and a teddy bear clinic.
For others, there’s a selfie station, a Post-It wall, an open art studio and a pledge young people can take. The fair is also a place to find out about the available resources.
“We’re hoping youth primarily attend but we know that it makes a big difference for families,” Peterson said. “It’s particularly important that youth come.”