COS sees increase in mental health referrals
Community Outreach Services (COS) has experienced an increase in mental health referrals for youth over the past few months, however, Anna DeClercq, a youth and teen outreach worker with the organization, doesn’t believe the spike is cause for concern.
“I think kids are becoming more educated and there’s less of a stigma around mental health so what we’re actually seeing is an increase in kids that feel comfortable talking to a mental health nurse or who might consider seeing an addictions counselor,” DeClercq said. “When I was a teenager I didn’t know what anxiety or depression was, but because we’re talking about mental health services more and more I think kids are aware that these are real problems and it’s okay to talk about them.” While COS didn’t have numbers readily available, the organization said mental health referrals can be done individually, through a parent or guardian or through a staff member at the youth’s school, and can be about a myriad of issues including depression, anxiety, substance problems and sexual health inquiries. “I can’t just go pull a kid out of class because their parents said so. The youth has to be open to coming in and working with us,” DeClercq said. “The really great thing about COS is that we’re not therapy, which makes it a little easier for kids to come in. Our job is to talk with youth and if we see any problems then we might refer them to the mental
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health nurse if we think that’s best. “It’s more of us saying ‘hey, are you interested in therapy? This is what it would be like.’” In recent years the local community has stepped up its efforts to increase mental health awareness through initiatives like the J9 Sparkle Foundation and Jasper’s Community Helpers’ elephant in the room campaign. “Locally there’s been a lot of great education for the kids. I think they’re very much aware that when you’re feeling low and things are going well then there’s something wrong and they can identify that and they have the words to describe those feelings,” said DeClercq, adding that technology also plays an important role in mental health education. “Teens who come in have almost half-diagnosed themselves because they’ve been Googling their symptoms. Kids are starting to know what feels right and what feels wrong and they know how to get the help they need.” Community Outreach Services (COS) is located at 627 Patricia Street and offers confidential, non-judgmental support for all ages in Jasper. For youth seeking help for any issues, but still wish to remain anonymous, DeClercq suggested Kids Help Phone, Canada’s only free, national, confidential and anonymous, 24-hour telephone and online counseling service. Its number is 1-800-668-6868.
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