Helping teenagers cope with mental illness

Teens In Control provides education and peer support

Private donations have come forward to assist the funding-strapped BC Schizophrenia Society office in Kelowna after its programs and services were threatened with closure last November.

One of those donations came from the Pacific Blue Cross Health Foundation, a grant for $10,000 which has been specifically targeted for the Teens In Control education and support program, a reflection of Pacific Blue Cross having 18,000 members living in Kelowna.

Started as a pilot project last year, Teens In Control offers peer support to teenagers generally between ages 13 and 17 who have parents or other loved ones dealing with mental illness.

Related: Kelowna schizophrenia society branch could close

BCSS volunteer Andrea Hess said a second session is planned to start up in March.

Hess said her teenage son and daughter went through the eight-meeting program last year, as she deals with anxiety and depression issues.

“They both got a lot out of it. My daughter was 11 so she was a little bit on the younger end but we put her in into it as well.”

Hess, a volunteer with the BCSS branch in Kelowna, said the importance of Teens In Control is to continue knocking down the negative social stigmas surrounding mental illness and peer support, while addressing the needs of a teenage group that often doesn’t get much support—those living with or around others suffering from mental illness.

“The peer support aspect is crucial,” she said. “For youth just having the opportunity to interact with their peers sharing the same kinds of experiences can be just as effective as working with mental health care professionals.

“It’s getting better as more teenagers start talking about mental illness in their lives. There is a lot more awareness, people are talking about it more. But there is still lots of stigma, shame and misinformation out there as well.”

She said BCSS offers Teens In Control in other communities but up until last year it was not available in Kelowna. The local society branch is also working with Foundry youth health referral service in Kelowna to help funnel youth seeking help towards the program.

While it is based on Kelowna, she said enrolment is open to youth from neighbouring communities.

“We’ve had people come from as far away as Merritt to participate in our family programs,” Hess said.

For more information or to register for Teens In Control, visit the BCSS website or visit the Foundry at 100-1815 Kirschner Rd.

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