Far too many youth, services end when wellness begins to improve

To the Editor;

On September 16, 2020, the Representative for Children and Youth (RCY) released A Way to Cope: Exploring non-suicidal self injury in BC Youth. The report analyzes the precursors, frequency and contributing factors to self-harm among youth in B.C.

As frontline workers and leaders in Indigenous child welfare, we were saddened and frustrated to read how Indigenous youth suffering from trauma and poor mental health continue to be denied the services they so desperately need.

The report told us what our frontline workers already know—that while youth may receive help when a crisis occurs, services end when their wellness begins to improve.

For most Indigenous youth, services are only available in urban centers, forcing them to leave their community, family and support systems behind in order to get help. While connection to culture is proven to be a protective factor for suicide, interventions with youth experiencing self harm rarely ever turn to culture for strength and instead rely on a ‘one size fits all’ cognitive therapy approach.

Our Secwepemc Child and Family Services Agency (SCFSA) echoes the concerns raised by Ms. Charlesworth, wholeheartedly accepts the recommendations she raises in this Report, and want to be part of the solution.

SCFSA recently put in place and will be expanding on an Intensive youth support team that is made up of social workers, youth workers and mental health professionals and has been partnering with the RCMP, specialized service providers, and care homes in the Kamloops area. At the same time, we are expanding programming that connects Secwepemc youth to their culture and Secwepemc Elders. This is just a start.

From our agency’s perspective there are three things we need to do:

1. Increase funding for capacity building to expand limited supports and services, so Indigenous youth experiencing self-harm are not left on waitlists or caught in a cycle of repeated crisis.

2. Support caregivers with education, skill building, and stress-reduction to ensure youth are supported in their homes.

3. Services for youth must be trauma informed and culturally grounded, Indigenous youth experiencing self-harm require a circle of acceptance, connection and care aimed at addressing their complex needs.

The main take away from Ms. Charlesworth’s report should be that our services need to do more than simply keeping youth alive; our youth have the right to thrive. As frontline workers we are keen to fight for our youth and these solutions.

Carmen Hance, Board Chair, and Yvonne Hare, Executive Director of the Secwepemc Child and Family Services Agency

* Editor’s note: The Secwépemc Child & Family Services Agency (SCFS) is a fully delegated Aboriginal Agency that provides a range of voluntary, guardianship, child protection services to Aboriginal families and children living in the seven Secwépemc communities and Kamloops area which are; Adams Lake Indian Band, Bonaparte Indian Band, Neskonlith Indian Band, Simpcw First Nation, Skeetchestn Indian Band, Tk’emlups te Secwépemc, and Whispering Pines / Clinton.

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