My Journey of Hope. By Teresa Fairbridge, Facilitator/Counselor, Associations for New Canadians, Newfoundland and Labrador
AUDIENCE Settlement, social and health service providers
POPULATION OF INTEREST Refugee youth
LOCATION St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador
THE NEED Deep rooted stigma and unfamiliarity with mental health literacy impeded refugee youths’ ability to access mental health supports.
WHAT'S PROMISING My Journey of Hope introduces refugee youth to the concepts of mental health. Participants use art to express their resilience which they explore through their personal and cultural experiences. The program seeks to create social support networks through sharing the meaning of art work with small groups of peers. Modules were created for youth, parents and service providers to bridge gaps around mental health in immigrant and refugee communities in Newfoundland.
KEY TAKEAWAY The project is centered around community engagement and building community capacity. It employs a multipronged approach which addresses educational needs in the community, creatively engaging youth, and empowering them to champion mental health in their own communities. Grounding the project in a cycle of discussion and feedback with refugee and immigrant youth allowed us to create programs that truly meet the needs of youths and their families.
Association for New Canadians (ANC)
The ANC is a non-profit, community-based organization delivering settlement and integration services to immigrants and refugees in Newfoundland and Labrador. For more than 40 years, the Association has delivered programs and services that support all aspects of immigrant integration, ranging from settlement information and orientation, to language learning, skills development and employment.
A Three Phase Approach
Stigma, combined with many newcomers’ unfamiliarity with mental health issues prevented many from accessing necessary supports. The Journey of Hope Project joined the Royal Bank of Canada Future Launch initiative to enhance mental wellbeing, empowering youth to create a well-balanced future for themselves.
The initiative is comprised of three phases. Phase one was the formation of the 2gether youth advisory committee and community engagement groups. These groups were involved in discussions which led to the development of three mental health modules for: youth, parents, and service providers. The modules were created to bridge gaps between these populations. The goal is to ensure that the needs of the young people are being met by service providers and that mental health is introduced from a culturally grounded perspective.
The modules, along with additional community feedback, provided the foundation for the second phase which entailed creating, piloting, and training passionate community youth to co-facilitate, The My Journey of Hope program. The third phase is currently offering the program to community youth.
My Journey of Hope Program
This program is a structured, arts-based peer support group which is based in art-therapy, narrative therapy and the peer-support model. Running for 10 sessions, the program provides youth the opportunity to use art to explore and express their existing strengths and resiliency, reflect on their life journey, and create goals. Small group sizes of up to 10 participants provide a safe space for youth to share their art, and its meaning, creating deep social support networks and further enhancing resiliency.
The art encourages the youth to reflect on their own cultural histories and experiences in identifying their personal strengths and resiliency, and empowers them to employ these through difficulties in their lives.
Community youth were provided with training to co-facilitate the groups alongside a certified counsellor. Additional opportunities for certified mental health trainings were also provided to empower youth to be mental health champions in their communities, furthering community capacity.
Program rollout has just begun. Initial feedback on the group has been positive with members commenting that they leave the group feeling calmer than when they arrive for each session. Those that completed the group reported increased confidence, a positive perspective on mental health and feeling connected and supported.
- Have a good or promising practice you’d like to share with other providers on how you are supporting the mental health or influencing the social determinants of mental health for immigrants and refugees? Then contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org