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'NorthBEAT' calls on youths to join local advisory group

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Youths who experience mental illness don't always get the care they need.

The systems of support that youths go to first when experiencing mental health problems sometimes lack awareness around what's really going on.

Especially for those who experience psychosis.

This is where the Northwestern Ontario-based research strategic systems collaborative, “NorthBEAT,” is trying to help.

“What we're doing is making sure that the capacity to understand these issues is out there,” said project lead Dr. Chi Cheng.

“Ultimately, the goal is to shift the system for youth who experience psychosis in Northwestern Ontario so that they get the help they need where and when they need it.”

The current systems of support for youths experiencing psychosis may not know how to adequately identify or appropriately intervene.

“I just don't think there's enough education, and the field of early psychosis intervention has moved very quickly in the last 15 years,” Dr. Cheng noted.

“Even the way I was trained, you couldn't identify it very well, so it is on many levels, trying to intervene but at the places where youth tend to turn to first.”

The people who youths turn to first rarely are mental health professionals. It is more commonly parents, teachers, coaches, police officers, paramedics, and other people who work with them.

Through educating these individuals across the systems, NorthBEAT hopes to make pathways to care easier to navigate.

“Let's shift the system for youth who are experiencing psychosis,” Dr. Cheng said.

“Let's make sure that wherever they land, whatever door they knock on first, people know what to do.”

The collaborative effort officially was launched back on Dec. 1 after receiving an $880,000 Ontario Trillium Foundation-Youth Opportunities Fund Grant.

Since then, NorthBEAT has been on the lookout for youths aged 12-25 to become a part of its youth advisory group.

They are looking for people who have lived experience with mental health issues or people who have family or friends with lived experience.

Applicants must be a resident of Northwestern Ontario and wish to impact change.

“We want to hear from you," Dr. Cheng enthused. ”We want to hear your opinions, what works, what you think is helpful and not helpful.

“You'll be talking to a group of people who really want to hear and want to learn,” she added.

Part of the youth advisory group members' role will be to inform the collaborative at every level of their decision-making.

Dr. Cheng said it's a great opportunity for youths to have their say and their voices heard.

Those interested in joining the youth advisory group can visit www.northbeat.ca and fill out an application.

For more information, e-mail northbeat@tbh.net or call 1-807-346-3693.

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