The North Okanagan Hospice Society has increased its capacity to offer grief and bereavement services to children and youth in the region.
In 2022 hospice conducted a needs assessment study in the community to determine if a service increase was warranted.
Representatives from five agencies responded (Family Resource Centre, North Okanagan Youth and Family Services, Child and Youth Mental Health, Victim Services, Vernon and District Canadian Mental Health Association) and four different school counsellors responded. The responses were from counsellors, administrators, and program leads.
In total 16 responses were recorded.
Survey results indicated an overwhelming need for dedicated counselling support for children and youth in the North Okanagan with 93.8 per cent of respondents answering “yes” and 6.2 per cent answering “maybe.” Participants of the focus groups were also unanimous in their support of NOHS offering grief and bereavement services to youth and children.
“The needs assessment we conducted in the community showed there is not enough support for children and youth dealing with loss, said hospice executive director Lisa Matthews. “It is known that unresolved grief at a young age can result in continued mental health issues in adulthood.”
It is estimated that 1 in 14 children in Canada will experience the death of a parent or sibling by the time they turn 18.
“In just one year, over 203,000 of Canada’s 7.5 million children under 18 will experience the death of someone in their extended family,” said the Children and Youth Grief Network. “Almost 40,000 will experience the death of a parent or sibling who lives in their home. The death of a parent or sibling has been found to be one of the most stressful life events that a child or youth can experience.”
NOHS has expanded programming like “Walk with Me,” where people grieving can go for a stroll in Polson Park. A youth learn to row program was also launched in conjunction with the Vernon Rowing and Dragon Boat Club and other programs. For information on NOHS grief and bereavement programs visit nohs.ca/access-services/grief-and-bereavement/.
The programs are funded by grants, donations and user fees, which can be waived if there is financial hardship.