On Tuesday, May 7, 2019, Child and Youth Mental Health Day, Keely Ryan, 20, wants youth to know that taking the first step and reaching out for help when you’re struggling is worth it.
“I understand what it’s like to hurt,” said Ryan, a young woman who experienced her first mental-health crisis in her early teen years. She was provided services through B.C. Child and Youth Mental Health (CYMH), where she received therapy.
Later, life circumstances led to a new crisis. Again, it was suggested that she get help through CYMH services. Ryan recalls how opposed to that idea she was then. “I’m over it. I don’t need help.” That’s what she told herself until another traumatic event happened, and she had to admit that she really did need help again.
“I was ready this time. My therapist recognized all the signs of trauma, which I had been unable to fully see the effects of,” Ryan said. “She’d relay those signs back to me, so I could recognize how my behaviour was a result of the trauma. It was a slow journey. I’d often push her away because of my trust issues, but she’d just wait until I was ready. She’d ask me, ‘What do you want to bring up today?’ We had really open communication. She reminded me that everything I said was confidential and wasn’t going anywhere else.”
Looking back, Ryan said, “The most important thing is to first admit to yourself that you actually need some help. No one can get through life completely on their own. Good counsellors show us how to do the work for ourselves.”
She wants other youth to know that sometimes it can take time to find the right therapist and the right therapy. Mental-health clinicians, such as therapists, psychiatrists and psychologists, work with youth in finding the right fit.
Ryan says one of the other things she’s done to improve her mental well-being is become a member of the provincial director of child welfare’s Youth Advisory Council (YAC) through the Ministry of Children and Family Development. The YAC is comprised of about 20 youth in and from care from different parts of British Columbia. They represent a diverse range of age groups, cultures and gender identities.
“Really getting connected and engaged to something that mattered to me was life-saving,” she said. “On the council, we all have one thing in common. We’ve all been in care. I feel like they’re my family. If I wasn’t a part of YAC, I don’t think I’d be sober. I might not even be alive to be there for all my siblings. My siblings are the most important people in my life, and I need to be sober and mentally healthy to be able to be a good role model for them.”
“It was as if everything fell into place, the more work I did to stabilize my mental health,” Ryan said.
As of June, she will have been sober for one year. Her self-care involves art, something she didn’t even know she was good at until she picked up a paintbrush at age 14. She remembers being surprised. “Oh! I’m really good at this.” It was a picture of a sunset. She used that talent to apply to YAC, both in written and artistic form.
Now, she’s focused on the future. She’s considering the child and youth care program at Douglas College but wants to find a way to incorporate yoga, art and meditation into her future because those are some of the ways she keeps her balance, in addition to talking things through with friends and continuing to have CYMH services.
Ryan knows that since she has been able to come this far, so can others who may not currently see any light at the end of their own dark tunnels.
Find a CYMH intake clinic in your area: https://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content?id=7A47F63419D248FABE810E421BFD4D21
Children’s Mental Health Research Quarterly:
Finding the best “fit” for therapy often means finding the best information on approaches that are effective. This month marks the 50th issue of the Children’s Mental Health Research Quarterly, a journal funded by the ministry out of the faculty of health sciences at Simon Fraser University’s Children’s Health Policy Centre. The journal summarizes the best available research on children’s mental-health prevention and treatment interventions — for practitioners, policymakers, parents and members of the public. The spring 2019 issue highlights 50 research findings on children’s mental health: https://childhealthpolicy.ca/the-quarterly/