We have provided an annual grant to the Canadian Mental Health Association Vancouver-Fraser (CMHA-VF) for $3,000. The grant will support the Here4Peers program in Surrey. The Here4Peers program is a mental health literacy program delivered by youth, for youth within the school system and has been in operation for five years. It aims to reduce the stigma of mental illness, increase mental health literacy and create a supportive environment for youth to access help for mental health concerns. The overarching goal is to increase the capacity of youth to develop and maintain good mental health through education and early intervention.
Pre-COVID-19, high school students were trained and supported to become volunteer facilitators to deliver in-class mental health workshops to grade 6/7 students. The training program provides high school students with the skills necessary to become successful facilitators and public speakers and the skills needed to lead workshops. The program also uses respectful language to talk about mental health issues, practical tools, and healthy coping strategies. High school students then facilitate workshops for grade 7 youth, assisting them to navigate the ups and downs of adolescence as they enter a year of significant changes and transitions, socially, emotionally, and physically.
Since COVID-19, Here4Peers has transitioned from an in-school presentation to an online delivery model. Student peers' passion and commitment helps to ensure that the virtual format is still engaging and meaningful. Based on the success of the online program, CMHA-VF will use this grant to pilot the Here4Peers in the Surrey School District in 2021/22, in partnership with the Surrey School District.
“With this funding, CMHA-VF plans to introduce this Here4Peers program to one Surrey high school (Guildford), plus its feeder elementary schools,” explained Denise Johnson, the Here4Peers Program Manager CMHA, Vancouver-Fraser. “This program provides Surrey youth the opportunity to receive important training on mental health education and group facilitation. In turn, elementary school-aged children look up to their facilitators, who present them with vital self-awareness tools for mental health, stress, anxiety, depression, gratitude, and resiliency. These children are then able to build bonds with their peer leaders and, in turn, know they have secondary school students they can trust in the future. With a greater focus on mental health education, we are investing in and encouraging the healthy growth of youth within the City of Surrey.”
The Surrey School District has expressed an interest and commitment in piloting the program in 2021, and their long-term objective is to reach 50% of schools within the school system over the next four years. CMHA-VF hopes to continue to build capacity for the Here4Peers program in Surrey and support its youth.
“We’re grateful to be able to support CMHA’s Here4Peers program launch in Surrey,” said Christine Buttkus, Executive Director of SurreyCares Community Foundation. “The importance of maintaining good mental health is always important and that need has increased during the pandemic. Therefore it is important to support these programs and conversations, especially amongst Surrey youth.”
Individuals and businesses who wish to support Surrey charities are asked to give to Smart & Caring - Surrey’s Community Fund.