Panelists talk to parents, community about youth mental health issues

Parents were given the benefit of advice from five specialists in youth mental health at a talk sponsored by CameronHelps May 6 in Oakville.

The panelists represented experience in schools, hospitals, clinical and research settings and private practice counselling.  CameronHelps program director John Knox was the moderator and asked the first question which was the biggest issue facing youth mental health,

Dan McGann, who founded the teen run group at Credit Valley Hospital, says child mental health is not a priority in the health care system, with money mostly going to adult programs. Jennifer Brighton, clinical social worker and CameronHelps board member thought that parents need to be well informed, but the information isn’t getting out to them.

Theresa Wilson, who has practiced in Halton schools for over 30 years mentioned that it’s important for parents to learn how to talk to their teens.  Promoting wellness is key and getting more teachers involved, she says.

Adds Charlene Abrahams, a seasoned educator with 20 years experience suggests that its critical to not wait until the children turn 16 to act and for parents to understand risk factors earlier on.

Teens want to tell their parents first, but they end up telling their peers, says Jennifer. Parents have to stay involved and be “lovingly obnoxious” to maintain communications with their teens, she adds.

One of the questions from a parent was about a issue with anxiety and how to approach this in the classroom.  The panelists agreed it is important to talk to the school and teachers to get the right supports in place.  Suggests Dan, “ you can have a signal such as a pencil case on the desk for the teacher so they know today is not a good day to ask the student a question in class.”

PHOTO CAPTION: Panelists discuss wide range of topics on youth mental health. Seen here left to right are:  John Knox, Jennifer Brighton, Teresa Wilson, Melanie McGregor. Absent from picture is Charlene Abrahams.

The panelist biographies are listed below.

Jennifer Brighton is a seasoned Clinical Social Worker who offers Counselling, Psychotherapy and Coaching at her privately owned clinic Glen Abbey Therapy Centre located in Oakville Ontario.   Jennifer specializes in working with children and teens and as such sits on the Board of CameronHelps as the Clinical Director.  Jennifer is also a clinician with The Mindfulness Clinic in Toronto where she provides Mindfulness Based Therapy services.  In conjunction with this, Jennifer offers children and teen Mindfulness groups and has recently authored an illustrated Children’s book called “Jack the Jack Pine; A Mindful Discovery.”  Jennifer has 16 years of clinical experience working with adolescents, adults, couples and families.  She is specialized in a number of therapeutic modalities including CBT, DBT, Emotion Focussed Therapy, EMDR and Clinical Hypnosis.

Melanie McGregor is the Communications and Health Promotion Specialist at the Canadian Mental Health Association Halton Region Branch. She is passionate about reducing stigma and encouraging conversation about mental health and mental illness. She has worked in the mental health field in various capacities for 8 years and is a certified trainer in both suicide intervention and Mental Health First Aid.

Theresa Wilson has been a social worker practising in both the Children’s Mental Health and Education Sectors for over 30 years. She has worked with both the Halton Catholic District School Board and the Halton District School Board. She values the strong relationships with local Children’s Mental Health Agencies to meet the needs of both students and families in Halton. Theresa is currently the Mental Health Lead for the Halton District School Board.

Dan McGann founded the Teen Run Group to support therapy for teens dealing with issues related to anxiety, depression and suicidal thoughts. Combining his professional expertise with his personal passion for running, Dan founded the “Teen Run Group” in 2006 at The Credit Valley Hospital where he worked as a clinical social worker for more than 20 years. Dan is recognized by peers from his own community and across the country for his success working specifically with teens.

Charlene Abrahams is a seasoned educator with over 20 years teaching experience
with children and youth. She is a qualified facilitator for the Kids Have Stress Too! workshop series that was designed and developed by the Psychology Foundation of Canada. She is recognized as a Reaching In Reaching Out Resiliency Trainer and was recently awarded a post-graduate certificate in Infant Mental Health from York University. Charlene currently holds the position of Family Resource Facilitator at Oak Park Neighbourhood Centre and Interim Executive Director at CYAN-Community
Youth in Action Network.