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WAYVE, Skills for Safer Living highlighted at suicide prevention conference


CMHA Waterloo Wellington’s WAYVE and Skills for Safer Living programs joined the Youth Suicide Prevention conference in Waterloo on June 19th to share their work.

The conference, hosted by the Waterloo Region Suicide Prevention Council and the Ontario Association for Suicide Prevention, brought attendees from across Southwestern and Eastern Ontario to hear about best practices in youth suicide prevention.

Scott Grant, Coordinator with the Skills for Safer Living team, shared the outcome of the team’s collaboration with Lutherwood on a program for teens and their parents.

“It was a ten-week program, and we ran two concurrent groups,” says Grant.

“One group, we did an intervention for teens who were either self-harming, had suicide ideation, or had attempted suicide – so we ran a skills group how to keep yourself safer.”

“At the same time,” he adds, “we ran a support group for the parents. So that was a group focused on understanding what their children were going through and ways to support them. We wanted the skills [we were teaching the teens] to be reinforced in the home.”

Jennifer Durst, a Youth Engagement Facilitator with WAYVE, spoke about the benefits of youth-adult partnerships in youth engagement, rather than ‘youth tokenism.’

“The research shows that in terms of youth engagement, you get the most positive outcomes with a youth-adult partnership model,” says Durst.

Among the benefits, studies show, are lower rates in alcohol and drug use, criminal activity, school failure and dropout, and teenage pregnancy. By contrast, engaged youth find greater success in school, have clearer ideas of their desired career paths, are more involved in their communities, and have stronger social supports.

On the other hand, says Durst, youth tokenism is when “[you have] a room full of adults, and you have a couple youth around the table. Some people think that’s youth engagement, but the youth don’t feel like they really have a voice in that situation, because there’s a huge power difference.”

Durst shared how WAYVE – a movement towards wellness, acceptance, youth voices, and empowerment – has struck a balance by making sure youth and adults share equal power in the program.

“They’re amazing. They’re my heroes,” she says. “And the youth on the team, some of them volunteer up to 120 hours a year during the school year, which is incredible.”

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