Network/coalition name: The Grey Bruce We C.A.R.E. Project
Website address: www.wecaregreybruce.ca
The Grey Bruce We C.A.R.E. Project is an initiative of community agencies, police services, and school boards that recognize the importance of working together for youth mental health, life promotion, and suicide prevention. This initiative began in the fall of 2012, following a concerning number of deaths by suicide in local area high schools. The focus of the project encompasses all of Bruce and Grey Counties. The number of Grey Bruce We C.A.R.E. partners continues to grow and currently includes:
The first task of the Project Partners was to develop a Memorandum of Understanding and Terms of Reference that clearly articulated a foundation and expectations of partners.
Project vision and mission
In the spring of 2013, a gap analysis by the community partners found that there were many services and supports that targeted youth mental health promotion, prevention, intervention, or crisis management. However, clear pathways to referrals were not always evident or services understood by the partner agencies. Further, the analysis highlighted a gap in services and supports which targeted the adult community that youth naturally relate to when they need support or help with a problem. Focus groups run by the We C.A.R.E. project found that adults identified by youth as natural helpers did not always know what to say or how to support young people with a mental health issue. Similar focus groups with youth natural helpers also uncovered that youth did not feel confident in how they were supporting their peers.
The We C.A.R.E. Project recognizes that natural helpers are an important support network and are often the first people to encounter a young person who may be struggling. It is the intent of the We C.A.R.E. Project to connect with natural helpers and offer education, information, and support in the promotion of youth mental health and prevention of youth suicide.
We C.A.R.E vision
All members of the Grey Bruce community will make a commitment to connect with, ask about, reach out to, and engage with youth and their families in a way that will increase awareness, understanding, compassion and support for youth mental health.
We C.A.R.E mission
- work with young people to identify natural helpers in our community;
- connect with natural helpers and offer education, information, and support;
- create community awareness and provide information and resources about how to help youth with a mental health issue; and
- work collaboratively to inform practices, identify barriers, address service gaps, and advocate for supports
Tips to creating a vision and mission:
- “Slow down to speed up.” You need to take the time to build a foundation (i.e., ToR, MOU, mission, vision) before you can really start to move work forward. Honour the process.
- It’s important to include the voice of youth and natural helpers.
- Engage students to help facilitate your work. We engaged a MSW student to help us do focus groups with youth and to develop a toolkit for our partners.
Over the last two years the We C.A.R.E. Project has addressed its vision and mission through four key activities.
The We C.A.R.E. website is a youth mental health promotional resource that identifies key issues in youth mental health and clear pathways for support in Grey and Bruce Counties. It is comprised of an adult portal and a youth portal, and primarily targets adult and youth natural helpers. The website uses videos, music, and interactive tools to engage the audience, while offering information on the role of a natural helper. The resource is linked to a We C.A.R.E. Facebook page and Twitter account and community partners can post upcoming events that relate to youth mental health in Grey or Bruce County.
The We C.A.R.E. Project recognizes the difficult transition and associated stressors that students encounter moving from an elementary lifestyle to a high school lifestyle. As such, all grade 9 students in Bruce and Grey Counties were offered a We C.A.R.E. locker magnet/picture frame with important contact information, inspirational words and the We C.A.R.E. website address. Grade 9 homeroom teachers were also provided with a website scavenger hunt as a tool to walk their students through the website in a purposeful way.
The We C.A.R.E. Project has developed promotional material that continues to be dispersed throughout Grey and Bruce Counties. These materials include a We C.A.R.E. banners that have been disseminated to all partner agencies, help cards with the We C.A.R.E. branding and helpful information, and We C.A.R.E. posters with QR codes linking them to the We C.A.R.E. website.
The We C.A.R.E. Project hosted the first 'Share' event in the spring of 2015. 'Share', offered in Owen Sound and Walkerton, brought together adults and youth from throughout Grey and Bruce Counties for a one-day symposium. The goal of the event was to create greater awareness about youth mental health and life promotion, and how to Connect, Ask, Reach, and Engage young people who may be dealing with a mental health challenge. Following a keynote address, participants attended a topic-specific workshop co-facilitated by a mental health professional and a young person. In the afternoon, participants attended workshops that explored coping tools that could be used to support good mental health. Since a conversation about mental health can occur through a variety of modalities, youth expressed themselves in a variety of ways, including music, art, dance, and the sharing of lived experience.
Putting a strategic plan into action
Building on existing initiatives, We C.A.R.E. Project is starting to put into action a 3-year strategic plan, focusing on four goals. This plan was developed in May 2015 with a clear plan for putting strategic goals into action.
Tips to creating a strategic action plan:
- Create terms of reference first
- Hire an consultant to facilitate the process with an outside perspective
- Look ahead to at least three years
- Build evaluation and sustainability plans into the strategic plan right from the start
- The flag ship is our website – it’s visible, tangible and gives us a presence
- Our Share event was the first of its kind to bring adults and youth together in our community
- The use of youth voice through lived experience, music, art and dance
- Developing the infrastructure is paramount to maintaining our project – this is key to sustaining the work
- 'Branding' of We C.A.R.E. has been very effective
- Our connection to the 211 Ontario database allows for relevant information for Grey Bruce residents
- A challenge we face is that not all partners want to be involved in all aspects of the committee’s initiative. We need to recognize where each partner is at and allow them to participate where they can – don’t let it to be a barrier to getting the job done.
- Coming to consensus on terms of reference was sometimes exhausting and again slowing down to speed up was very important. Allow voices to be heard and time to process.