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Today’s youth more open about mental struggles: advocate

Published on

Tara Jeffrey

Lindsay Kirkland says it’s the younger generation that gives her the most hope when it comes to tackling the youth mental health crisis.

“I sit back — just in awe of these kids,” the mental health worker and advocate said during a provincial panel discussion for Bell Let’s Talk day.

Lindsay Kirkland

“I am mind-blown at their self-awareness and their willingness to talk about their mental health and their struggles.

“I was 13 when I lost my first best friend to suicide,” she added. “And when I reflect back to that age, those conversations of mental health and well-being, and what suicide was — (they) were not happening at all.”

The virtual event, moderated by CMHA Ontario, included roundtable discussions featuring mental health experts and individuals with lived experience, and explored how to keep hope and maintain mental health during these challenging times.

Kirkland draws on her personal journey to advocate for struggling youth, and founded the Stigma Survivors social media campaign. Last year she was awarded the YMCA Peace Medal for her community advocacy.

She spoke about the need for a different approach when it comes to helping youth who need mental health support.

“There’s a shift in trying to move away from the ‘clinical’ aspect,” said Kirkland, who sits on the youth advisory group for Access Open Minds Sarnia-Lambton — a new mental health facility set to open this summer.

“I can still remember going to my appointments — walking into hospitals or office buildings, filling out a stack of forms and disclosing all this vulnerable information, some of it I didn’t even want to admit to myself at that point,” she recalled of appointments with counsellors, psychologists and psychiatrists over the years.

“Because there’s nothing harder than walking in and having to disclose such a big part of yourself to someone who you can’t see yourself in.”

That’s why she can’t wait for Access Open Minds to open in downtown Sarnia, she said.

“We’re going to have the clinical supports in place but our goal is to make sure that the space is welcoming for youth and parents and caregivers and anyone else who really needs the support,” she said.

“Sometimes it’s nice to know that the person on the other side who you’re having to disclose to… is also a human… they also have their own struggles.”


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