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Visions Journal

Reaching Out

Two BC programs bring mental health awareness to youth

Reprinted from "Schools" issue of Visions Journal, 2009, 5(2), pp. 28-30

Two programs here in BC are doing their part to combat mental illness in schools and among young people.

ReachOut Psychosis is a program of the BC Schizophrenia Society, funded by the BC Partners for Mental Health and Addictions Information. It won the Schizophrenia Society of Canada Initiatives/Programs of Excellence Award for 2008. And a video about the program was featured at the 6th International Conference on Early Psychosis, October 2008, in Melbourne, Australia.

Youth Net Delta has been offered by the Canadian Mental Health Association, Delta Branch for six years. This youth-to-youth approach was originally developed 15 years ago by two Ontario doctors and has been helping young people to recognize and get help for mental health issues ever since.

Get the scoop on these programs below.

ReachOut—Spotting and Stopping Psychosis Early

Sophia Kelly, DVATI

The ReachOut Psychosis Concert Tour teaches youth spot to psychosis symptoms in themselves and their friends, and empowers them to seek medical help or help others when they do spot symptoms.

A high-energy rock band, slam poet and professional teacher present information on early psychosis intervention. This is done in an interactive and fun way, mixed with music and spoken word performance. Some of the performers have either experienced psychosis directly or have a friend with psychosis, and they talk about their experiences during the show.

Young adults in the audience learn what it might feel like to have psychosis and what psychosis looks like from a friend’s perspective. They also learn that treatment is available and successful, and that early medical intervention is important to increase the chance of full recovery. They learn where to go for help, both online and within their community.

Audience members complete a brief questionnaire, in person or on the website, about symptoms and how to get help. If they fill in the questionnaire correctly, they are eligible to win donated prizes. The completed questionnaires also help track the success of the program in increasing young people’s knowledge.

The performance tours to colleges, high schools and correctional centres throughout BC at no cost to hosting locations.

Over 24,000 youth aged 16 to 25 attended the presentation last year . The performers and teacher are all youthful, and the performance is of a calibre that young adults would normally pay to see.

Psychosis affects 3% of the population.1 First symptoms usually show up between the ages 16 and 30.2 Early medical treatment has been shown to have a big effect on the speed and completeness of recovery from this brain condition.3-5

Psychosis is hard to spot in yourself. In this young adult age group, peers may be the first to notice something is wrong and are often the first people youth turn to for help.

Equally important, this program helps to reduce the stigma of the condition by bringing in attractive role models who set a tone that undermines discrimination and fear of persons with mental illness.


  • Tracy Dudley, Tour Coordinator: 604-682-7020, or

  • Visitors to can view a video of the performance, listen to clips of the performers, read or watch videos about psychosis and enter a knowledge-testing contest. Teachers can download teaching resources and sign up to receive information on teacher resources by e-mail.


Youth Net Delta—For Youth by Youth

Judy Gray

Youth Net Delta is an interactive mental health promotion program for youth. It aims to reduce the stigma of mental illness and create a supportive climate for youth to access help for mental health concerns.

Older youth facilitate focus groups for young people on the topic of mental health and stress. The facilitators are usually college or university students who have direct or indirect knowledge and experience of mental health issues. The discussion groups are loosely structured around five questions: What is mental health? What is mental illness? What issues/stresses are you dealing with? How do you deal with them? Do you know who you could trust to help you in your school, community and personal life?

The presentation goals are:

  1. to provide self-awareness tools and information about mental health and mental illness,

  2. to introduce coping skills that can be used during difficult times, and

  3. to provide “youth friendly” resources on how to help themselves, family and friends.

The hour-and-a-half presentation is designed to encourage critical thinking, start conversations and foster open communication on issues of mental health and personal well-being. Teachers are encouraged to leave the classroom (and usually do) so the discussion can be among just youth. Participants are able to talk about their stressors and concerns.

Additionally, participants complete a questionnaire that prompts facilitators to check in with any youth who may be in crisis. Further support is available through a clinical backup person, who may be a suicide prevention worker or a high school counsellor. If needed, the youth facilitators can also connect the youth with other professional help.

The school system is the target to reach the youth, and groups take place primarily in Delta high schools. However, we have been invited to present at schools in Surrey and White Rock, as well as to private groups that work with youth.  

Youth Net Delta is active from September to June. Presentations are usually delivered during school hours.

Youth Net Delta’s primary target is grade 10 students enrolled in Planning 10, since the learning outcomes fit with the BC Ministry of Education health curriculum. In the 2007/2008 school year, Youth Net Delta presented to 910 students.  

A Ministry of Children and Family Development study done in 2002, Prevalence of Mental Disorders in Children and Youth,1 states that 15% of children and youth may be affected by a mental disorder. Anxiety and conduct, attention and depressive disorders are the most common mental health issues young people have. This study suggests a multi-faceted approach that includes programs to promote health for all children

Youth Net was developed by Dr. Ian Manion and Dr. Simon Davidson from Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario.2 This was in response to a 1993 survey on youth and mental health and illness done for the Canadian Psychiatric Association.3 The survey showed that youth are at high risk for mental health problems. But out of all youth reporting mental health or addiction symptoms, the majority never sought professional help. Embarrassment, fear, peer pressure and/or stigma were the major barriers to seeking help. Young people felt most comfortable talking about these concerns among themselves.

Youth Net Delta aims to educate youth on mental illness and encourage them to seek professional help at the earliest signs. Early recognition and treatment helps promote good recovery and continuing well-being.


About the authors

Sophia is Manager of the ReachOut Psychosis program for the BC Schizophrenia Society, and a consultant in private practice. She has designed and run programs addressing peer support, health education and outreach. Her background includes project management, technology and business analysis, with master’s-level training as an art therapist.

Judy recently added coordinating Youth Net Delta to her financial management duties at the Canadian Mental Health Association, Delta Branch. Over the past 10 years at CMHA, Delta, she has also been volunteer coordinator, program coordinator and information services coordinator

Sophia's Footnotes:
  1. Early Psychosis Intervention, Fraser Health Authority. (2006).What is psychosis?

  2. Canadian Mental Health Association. (2009). Psychosis.

  3. Edwards, J., Harris, M.G. & Bapat, S. (2005). Developing services for first-episode psychosis and the critical period. British Journal of Psychiatry, 48(Suppl.), 91-97.

  4. Larsen, T.K., McGlashan, T.H., Johannessen, J.O. et al. (2001). Shortened duration of untreated first episode of psychosis: Changes in patient characteristics at treatment. American Journal of Psychiatry, 158(11), 1917-1919.

  5. Jorgensen, P., Nordentoft, M., Abel, M.B. et al. (2000). Early detection and assertive community treatment of young psychotics: The Opus Study Rationale and design of the trial. Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology, 35(7), 283-287.

Judy's Footnotes:
  1. Waddell, C. & Shepherd, C. (2002). Prevalence of mental disorders in children and youth: A research update prepared for the British Columbia Ministry of Children and Family Development. Vancouver: Mental Health Evaluation and Community Consultation Unit (MHECCU), Department of Psychiatry, University of British Columbia.

  2. Youth Net Ottawa:

  3. Canadian Psychiatric Association. (1993). Canadian youth mental health and illness survey. Ottawa: author.


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