Reprinted from "Treatments for young people" issue of Visions Journal, 2006, 3 (1), p. 3
In this issue of Visions, and in the next one as well, the BC Partners for Mental Health and Addictions Information have chosen to focus on young people to the age of 25, in an effort to highlight not only the work being done by family members, teachers, counsellors, service providers, physicians and governments but also the experiences of youth affected by distress.
That said, it is diffi cult to fi nd youth able or willing to write about their experience with distress or illness. (As an example, you’ll note that we have no personal stories from youth struggling with addiction). It is interesting to see that for some the experience of distress and its treatment have taken hold in their lives and lead to change while for others the experience wasn’t as positive or rewarding. Even so, creating space for young people to be creative and participate in expressing their needs and desires is a prevailing theme.
We often seem to think that types of treatments exist in silos—making families and youth choose between talk or drug therapy—when in reality, distress is likely multi-factorial: an intersection of psychological, social, biomedical, developmental and other factors. We often don’t even consider young people expert enough in their own experience to be part of the treatment “team.”
As always, there are issues remaining. We were unable to access stories and articles about how other frameworks such as gender, sexuality, class or economic biases prevalent in our society impact how our youth are conceptualized as distressed. This may be because there is increased urgency, in treating youth, to mitigate any long lasting impact that such serious distress can leave. Maybe it is because in order to think through distress in a different way means we have to evaluate our assumptions of what it means to be young in a society that both overvalues youth as a state of bodily perfection and undervalues youth as a state of experience. Does this have any impact on the numbers of youth in distress or does it merely change how that distress is viewed?
Barker’s article reminds us that motivation and education, from whatever arena it is gained, must consistently be challenged and re-evaluated in order to provide the best in service to young people in distress and their families. As we see in the very personal accounts included in this issue, there is no one way to respond to youth distress. It is a good lesson to learn.
About the Author
Christina is Executive Director of the Canadian Mental Health Association’s Mid-Island Branch. She has an MEd in Community Rehabilitation and Disability Studies and is working towards her doctorate in Policy and Practice in the Faculty of Human and Social Development at the University of Victoria