Just over 2 weeks ago, I moved to a temporary community of just over 350 citizens. This community assembled itself in a hotel in downtown Vancouver and existed for a short 28.5 hours. Although this village was temporary- the effects of such a gathering will continue to be far reaching.
I am talking about The Children and Youth Mental Health and Substance Use Collaborative April 8th and 9th, and like the one I went to Kelowna in September-(see blog post We Can Move Forward With Mental Illness) - It was an amazing and empowering couple of days and I am still digesting and processing that incredible event.
It was not just a gathering of parents, policy makers, teachers, councillors, RCMP, service providers, doctors, family, youth, and many more. It was a community!! A powerful community, hearing and talking from the heart, with authenticity, courage, hope and frustration. A community where everyone was supported, no matter what hat they were wearing, as we are all in this together! Once that is realized, we can pull on each other’s strengths and the results have been and will continue to be amazing.
Community is so important, as I found out and wrote in my last blog post. It was because I had a community that I called in for help and support that I was able to get through my last mental health challenge- or as some say “breakthrough.” Knowing you are not alone can be life changing. Having connection can be lifesaving!
There are times when I feel what I am doing around mental health is not enough. I often feel like a very small pebble in a huge pond- and at times a vast ocean- and wonder if I make a difference. I am sure, everyone at that collaborative have wondered the same thing one time or another. Being at that collaborative showed me, that yes, what I am doing in my little corner of the world, does make a difference, and I hope, everyone else that was there realized that they too, are making a difference.
It was a whirlwind 28.5 hours. I met amazing people, had amazing discussions and gained valuable insights. I shared some great laughs, heartfelt moments and shed a few tears. When I told someone this they said “Wow that sounds complex.” Maybe that is true, but life is complex. Living with a mental illness is complex! Working with those of us with mental illness is complex! It’s not easy, and it sure the Hell is not straight forward. There is no x-ray to tell you what is wrong, no straight forward plan that will help everyone. But by pulling away the” facades” of “what” or “who” we should be, by allowing ourselves and others to “take off their hats” and be their authentic self, we can connect on a much deeper level. By creating a safe and supportive environment to acknowledge our strengths and challenges, we create a much stronger, open, accepting community, and we can collaborate at what works best for us. There is no “Us or Them”, it’s a “We” and we are in this together.
It was an amazing time. As I sat in the room with 357 other people, I had a thought. If I am a small pebble in a pond, I still make a ripple. If every one of these 357 people in the room are small pebbles, and make ripples, put us all together and we will make a pretty amazing wave.
We are making a wave, a movement forward with Youth and mental health. A wave that I wish I had in my youth, but since I didn't I will do what I can to keep this one moving forward. I feel honoured that I got to take part in this amazing event. It gives me encouragement and hope that it can get better.
Even though this community of dedicated citizens only lasted 28.5 hours, this village may have disassembled, and members gone their separate ways, we are still a community. We are still concerned about our youth and their mental health, and we all will continue to do what we can, to make it better. I look forward to seeing what shores this wave lands on.
Those are my thoughts for today, may you all be safe and well in your journeys.
Cheers and be well
To learn more about the Collaborative, and The FORCE Society For Kids Mental Health, and other helpful resources click on the links below