NUMBER 337ē 19 AUGUST 2003 ē LISTEN TO YOUTH
INDEX OF QUOTES
We are young but need to be treated as human beings and not as a problem or a disorder. We are prototypes, not to be treated as stereotypes.
School officials and health care providers must be framed to recognize and understand mental illness and its effects on us. The ignorance of the people who donít understand hurts us. For example:
Sometimes teachers who donít understand that mental illness is not lust a behavior problem say that we "choose" to act that way.
Some professionals only take or only have a few minutes to deliver a diagnosis and figure the whole thing out.
People who are supposed to be helping end up hurting us because they are not prepared and their training and our lives have not been made a priority. They contribute to the stigma of mental illness, which is perhaps one of the biggest barriers to our service. It hurts even more when a doctor or teacher rejects you than when a peer does.
Now, Iím sure many of you are thinking that you would never do this to us, or that you are not ignorant in this way, so itís not your concern. We tell you from our own experience of the professionals out there who are ignorant in this way that it is your concernóbecause itís not going to change unless the system changes. And at least we hope that system change is why you are all here.
Too often, once we get services (after fighting for them, or hitting a breaking point, or waiting on a waiting list for months), our services are hurried and disrespectful, and they donít respond to who we ore as people, who we are in the context of our families and communities, and who we will one day become. Letís not forget that a lot of this is about who we will become and whether or not we will be able to dream and achieve our dreams.
Young people will live up to or down to the expectations of adults, teachers, and professionals in their environment. Providers and systems must highly value and expect the best from us.
We need early prevention, better training for our parents, teachers, and other professionals, and more awareness about mental health so that youth with mental health issues are not stigmatized and thrown away.
We need systems that can and do work together. Families, schools, and healthcare providers must collaborate in a collective effort to mobilize and train our communities to work together.
We need accountability with checks and balances.
Servicesí goals should be developed by youth and familiesóbefore services are delivered.
Services must be evaluated according to how these goals are achieved. For example:
Has the provider established a connection with us that we can trust?
Are we being treated like an ordinary person rather than a disability?
You can do all the research you want, but if you forget who we are and what we need as people, and if you donít respond to our needs in the system and in our individual treatment, you will fail, the system will fail, and we will bear the burden as we do now. You must include youth, bring us to the table, and when we show up, you must listen.
CECELIA NATION (AGED 17)
Written by 11 Youths
Nation, CeCelia (2001) In CeCelia Nation & Lauren Stevenson - Balance of Power: Making Sure Youths are Seen and Heard. Reaching Today's Youth. Vol.5 No.3 p 7