Strongest Families coaches over smartphones

Penticton Rotary continuing mental wellness work with youth

Penticton Rotary is now in the fourth year of their youth mental wellness initiative, and later this month, they’re introducing a new way of looking at helping youth dealing with anxiety and other challenges.

“We kind of take the long game. We are looking for things that make a difference over the long term,” said Brian Hughes.

Later this month, the club is bringing Dr. Patricia Pottie to Penticton to talk about Strongest Families, a program developed by Dr. Patrick McGrath of Dalhousie University, over a 20-year period of investigating effective ways to treat mental illness in youth.

“Strongest Families is intriguing because, once again, you’re giving them (youth) skills to deal with anxiety and some of the challenges that a lot of them are facing at school. Rather than a therapy session or something like that, this program is a weekly program,” said Hughes. “The kids are calling in when it is convenient for them, and there is a coach on the other end that knows their file and works through it with them.”

To make the program accessible and increase acceptance, McGrath based it around smartphone, making it convenient for youth to connect in the privacy of their own homes.

Hughes said the work done with youth is incremental, each week building on the last, helping to gradually “reprogram,” or modify the way the brain approaches issues over a long period of time.

Rotary Youth Wellness Initiative is looking to test Strongest Families in the South Okanagan to observe its effectiveness with youth suffering with anxiety or anxiety disorder, which they note seems to be a prevalent problem as youth grapple with social media and other challenges.

The goal, according to Rotary, is that youth suffering from anxiety or anxiety disorder will be enrolled in the 14-week program and interested organizations and ministries can study its effectiveness, with the potential for offering it to a broader population if it proves out.

Hughes also said there is a potential for working with the YES project and their new youth centre.

“Perhaps the kids that have been through this program could have a support group and they could continue to meet after the 13 weeks are up and they could continue to support each other,” said Hughes.

The public talk on Strongest Families with Dr. Pottie takes place at 2 p.m. on Jan. 30 in the Shatford Centre. To book seating or for more information, call Hughes at 250-460-1731.

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