Dealing with substance abuse and mental health crises aren’t just conceptual for youth – it’s often their lived experience – and that was why a mental health training program in Rankin Inlet focused on addressing the unfiltered truth of the challenges young people face.
“These are the day-to-day realities that we live with in our communities, especially in the North, and they’re not separate from it,” said Helen Roos, president of the ilinniapaa Skills Development Centre.
“The youth are living it. And the one message that they indicated was that nobody is talking to them. Nobody is asking them to see where they need help with. That came out loudly and clearly.”
She facilitated a weekend training program early April at the community’s drop-in centre, where participants earned skills in two certificate programs: non-violent crisis intervention and mental health first aid.
“The program was awesome,” said Xzavier Kubluitok, coordinator of the drop-in centre and participant. “I learned a lot of new things.”
The non-violent crisis intervention taught him how to deal with aggressive people and calm them down, he said.
Roos added that the training helped youth distinguish between what they can deal with on their own and when they need to involve higher authority like the RCMP.
“It gave them a better understanding of where they fit,” said Roos.
Discussion also addressed when peers express suicidal thoughts and how youth can assess those situations.
“It was a very safe space but there were a lot of disclosures about how much youth are wanting this information, how some families or some youth are really struggling,” said Roos.
The group also discussed shatter, a concentrated form of cannabis, which Roos said participants found “riveting.”
Kubluitok agreed that it was good to learn about.
“That stuff is really dangerous and it can really mess with you at a very young age,” he said.
More than 20 youth took part in the program, with training also provided to volunteer firefighters with the Rankin Inlet department.
“We think that they shouldn’t hear this information for their ages, but the reality is youth are already using this stuff,” said Roos. “They’re experiencing much more, and they’re not isolated. And the more that we help them as youth, the better their mental health will be.”
Coun. Lynn Rudd was also present for the workshops, along with community wellness coordinator Christina Best.
Roos said that thanks to the positive feedback, more training sessions are planned in Rankin Inlet.