In early December, Saskatchewan Advocate for Children and Youth Corey O’Soup released a report in the wake of the mental health crisis experienced by youth in the northern areas of the province. To get to the root of the issue, Corey spoke directly to those who are impacted most, the youth themselves, to find out what they need to build stronger, healthier, and more resilient communities.
Part of the report was several calls to action, and a promise to the youth that they would be acted upon. We at Ranch Ehrlo take these calls to action very seriously, and we have found a variety of ways to respond, from on-the-ground efforts that involve sending our staff to the impacted communities, to what we do here, with the children and youth who utilize our residential services.
Ehrlo Sport Venture has harnessed the power of sport to bring preventative services to the communities of La Loche and La Ronge through HIGH FIVE training for youth and adults. Students use the training as a high school credit; helping those who were having difficulties in traditional classrooms, as well as offering a more hands-on approach to building leaders in the community. The training can kickstart sports or recreational programs for youth in their communities – something that the children and youth who were spoken to for the advocate’s report believe will help build stronger communities.
“One of the calls to action is building stronger communities, having youth experience a sense of belonging – lots of that comes from feeling empowered, which youth get from that training,” explained Sophie Grahame, director of clinical services.
We have also answered the call after crisis has struck.
“The particular issue Corey is writing about was triggered by the death of six young girls by suicide in our Northern communities last year,” said Dr. Bree Fiissel, vice president of clinical services. “And there continues to be high rates of children and adolescents that are experiencing mental health challenges in the north”.
To help combat that, when the First Nations and Inuit Health Branch of Health Canada reached out for immediate assistance for the youth of La Ronge in November 2016, two of Ehrlo Counselling’s own visited the community to support those who were in acute crisis. Since then, ECS has visited La Ronge six more times, and has sent counsellors to Stony Rapids and Fond Du Lac to provide services as well.
“Being able to respond quickly, and being able to respond with really skilled professionals – I think that Ehrlo Counselling was in a special place to do that last year after the crisis,” said Sophie.
For those children and youth who come to Ranch Ehrlo for treatment, we are consistently striving to ensure we are able to both meet their needs while in treatment and provide them with coping skills to take back to their communities.
One way we’ve done this is by implementing an Intensive Team Support project, wherein an integrated approach is taken to working with youth who are in significant distress and self-harming. This sees all members of a care team – residential, clinical, and educational – come together to determine the best way to help each client. Having this approach allows for staff to feel more supported, which in turn leads to better care for our clients.
“I think the agency is really committed to providing training that is helpful for staff and making sure that we do everything that we can do for kids in terms of supervision, safety, and developing coping skills so they know they have other choices than self harm or suicide,” Sophie concluded.