Professionals getting help
Strategies for helping with youth mental health
The tragic death of 33-year-old Matt Roke was very much on the minds of mental health professionals at a public symposium this week.
On May 2, 2012, Roke, a schizophrenic, was shot to death in Maitland by Prescott OPP after he threatened police with a knife. Police were responding to a call that Roke had earlier threatened his mother Jody with the same knife. The officers were exonerated in the shooting.
A coroner’s inquest later made 38 recommendations on how police and health mental authorities could better deal with cases similar to Roke’s, including a recommendation that health professionals hold annual seminars to inform parents and the public of what resources are available to help people struggling with mental illness.
Hence about two dozen people gathered at St. Mary’s Catholic High School this week to trade information about the resources available for troubled youth. It was the second annual forum to be held based on the coroner’s recommendation. Last year, health professionals outlined the programs available for adults. This year, they focused on youth services.
Jody Roke, Matt’s mother who attended the forum with her husband John, briefly spoke to the participants, saying she planned to attend the forums every year. She said she knows the recommendations of the coroner’s report by heart and she often carries the report with her.
“I plan to be here every year and I hope that over time things get better and better,” she said.
There were few members of the public at the forum this week, but the ones who did attend learned there is an abundance of help available to Leeds and Grenville youth who are grappling with mental health or addiction issues. All they have to do is ask for it.
Children’s Mental Heath of Leeds and Grenville; Lanark, Leeds and Grenville Addictions and Mental Health; RNJ Youth Services; and Connections gave presentations on the available services.
Kim Burson of Children’s Mental Health said her agency offers free, confidential services for children from zero to 18 at five locations across the counties – Brockville, Gananoque, Kemptville, Prescott and Elgin. The counsellors can travel to other locations as well, and they offer evening appointments, Burson said.
The agency encourages an all-family approach to therapy, but children over the age of 12 can also seek help on their own, she said. Burson said there usually is no waiting list.
“The family is the answer to their children’s problems,” said Burson, adding that the agency prefers to work with all members of the family.
The agency receives upward of 100 new clients a month, meaning it carries a caseload of 1,200 to 1,300 youth say ear, she said.
Karen Hall of Lanark, Leeds and Greville Addictions and Mental Health, said her agency offers mental health services to youths aged 16 and up, and addiction services for people of any age.
All of the programs that the agency offers to adults – counselling, some housing options, health and wellness and vocational programing–areal soavailable to youths, Hall said.
Addictions counsellor Steve McAvoy said the agency takes a “nonjudgmental” approach to drug use, focusing instead on harmreduction.
RNJ Youth Services gets involved with youths who are in danger of becoming involved with the justice system but who aren’t there yet, Tracy Doyle said.
Theymust be referred to the Inter sections program by police, she said. Thepolice receive calls from parents who can’ t handle their kids anymore, she said. The kids refused to go to school, or to even get out of bed, for example.
Const. Mark Heffernan of the Brockville Police Service said RNJ is a place where they can refer children who haven’ t been charged with crimes. By the time a youth gets into the justice system, Heffernan said, they often have had 30 or 50 earlier contacts with police. The idea of the RNJ program is to catch them early and get them help before they reach the courts, he said.
He ff er nan said the early intervention program has been very successful, with 90 to 95 percent of the youths never entering the justice system.
Hefferman said the Connections program operates at the Bethel Christian Reformed Church on Windsor Drive for kids who drop out of school or whoare suspended from class. The program gives the youths a place to go and connects them with acommunity, hesaid. The youth might play shuffleboard with seniors or volunteer to help in the daycare, for example, hesaid.
After the presentations, Jody Roke said she was pleased by the results.
“I think you do a beautiful job,” she told the presenters. “I don’t think that anybody could fall through the cracks with all of that.”
Youth workers, mental health professionals and others listen at a forum on youth mental health.