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New program's aim is to help youth with mental health during pandemic

Changing the narrative around youth mental health is part of the mandate of New Northern Mentality Group
New Northern Mentality Group hopes to change the narrative about mental health. Stock image by Polina Zimmerman, via Pexels

Taking care of one’s mental health is important all year round, but is even more crucial these days — in the midst of a global pandemic in the middle of the school year. 

The New Northern Mentality Group, a youth mental health advocacy group supported by Algoma Family Services, is hoping to help local youth aged 12-25 take care of their mental health during this time. 

“The New Northern Mentality is there to advocate for reducing the stigma attached to mental health and also reducing the stigma of getting help for mental health. There’s been a reduction of stigma in the past 10 years but there’s still much work to be done,” said Ali Juma, CEO of Algoma Family Services. “Thanks to the work of The New Northern Mentality we’re hoping to change the narrative about mental health and receiving help for mental health. Your mental health is just as important as your physical health.”

Based on research done by Dr. Radomski and Dr. Mario Capelli, when it comes to the pandemic and the impact on mental health, 37 per cent of youth and young adults report moderate to severe anxiety and 60 per cent of youth and young adults report that their mental health has actually gotten worse during the pandemic. 

The New Northern Mentality group, with the guidance of AFS’s youth engagement intern Casey Bergevin, currently has an online survey running to help determine what local youth need to better manage their mental health, and what AFS can do to help. 

“The youth were looking for projects to do within this school year and they kept talking about returning to school and how stressful it was in the spring and concerns and expectations for the new school year. They thought hey this could be a good project,” said Val Burns, logistics and community engagement coordinator for Algoma Family Services. “The youth created all of the questions themselves and put it together themselves with some support from Adult Allies who gave an adult perspective.”

The intention of the survey — called Returning to School: COVID-19 Edition — is to provide information from youth to Algoma Family Services so that clinical programs will be informed of what current challenges or positive results are from returning to school in a COVID-19 world. 

“Once the information is gathered and once the youths do their data analysis, the intention going forward with the information is to provide more detailed and pointed posts on social media. This project will help support youth as they are going through the changes that are going to be happening in school,” Burns said. 

“The information that is collected will help inform the services that we provide at AFS to make sure that what we are providing meets the needs of young people that have completed the survey. That’s what we’re hoping to do as an organization, to ensure that our services remain relevant,” Juma said. 

The survey can be found on The New Northern Mentality’s Instagram page, and will be available to take until October 31.

Juma says the easiest way to manage one’s mental health is having someone to reach out and talk to. 

“That’s really the premise of the New Northern Mentality — that you’re not alone. There are people that are available to help,” he said.