Dr. Shelly Ben-David standing with her grad students in front of the Foundry

Improving the mental health of young people – UBC Okanagan News

In one minute an animated YOUTUBE video, A bunny named BonBon is sitting alone in his bed in a dark room, poorly lit by the glare of a cell phone. Rejection letters from various universities are pinned to BonBon’s bedroom wall, and on their phone is a message from a friend standing excitedly in front of a large UBC sign: “You’ve entered!”

BonBon, feel blah, scrolls down to other feeds. The first reports are of wildfires raging across the county – leading to another fall. but next, from foundry– which provides wellness services to British Columbia youth ages 12 to 24 – BonBon is temporarily discontinued. He declares that “strong people are asking for support.”

It’s a simple scam. But within it is research that sheds light on how young people make decisions about whether or not to seek help with their mental health and life challenges. This research, is still ongoing, led by Dr. Shelley Ben-DavidAssistant Professor at UBC Okanagan School of Social Work.

Years ago, when Dr. Ben David worked at New York University and the New York State Psychiatric Institute – where there were “amazing psychological and social interventions to help young people” – she noticed many young people struggling. Adolescence and adulthood occur when important psychological, social, and neurological changes occur. If mental health issues are addressed early, this can help a young person avoid crises that can seriously disrupt milestones in their education, relationships, careers, and futures.

In Canada, statistics show that young people in the 15 to 24 age group have the highest rates of substance abuse and mental health disorders, yet only 20 percent have access to proper treatment.

Dr. Ben-David wanted to know why.

“If young people are not getting services, or staying engaged in services, to me, that’s a glaring problem.” But there has been little theoretical research examining the decision-making process young people struggle to use to decide whether or not to access services. What are their barriers? What are the factors in their lives that might prompt them to seek help?

In 2018, with the help of a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council Grant, Dr. Ben David set out to investigate the mystery that draws young people through the front doors of organizations like Foundry, which has 11 centers across British Columbia.

With a team of more than half a dozen UBCO alumni and undergraduate students from the School of Social Work, Dr. Ben David helps her I worked with the Kelowna Foundry to recruit 41 young men aged between 15 and 24 years into her study. also cooperated with Canadian Mental Health Association Kelowna.

“The Foundry is fantastic,” says Dr. Ben-David, who strives to put community involvement at the center of her research work. Young people (including high school and college students) and Parent Advisory Boards were formed to help Dr. Ben David’s UBCO team recruit participants and develop questions. “It was really important for community members, including young people, to be involved in the research process.”

Dr. Ben-David says that the contribution of young people to the structure and implementation of her research, strengthened her health. “After all, they have more current experience of being young,” she laughs.

Dr. Shelley Ben-David

Dr. Shelley Ben-David.

Using a decision-making framework called Unified Theory of Behavior (UTB), Dr. Ben-David’s team conducted semi-structured interviews with adolescents and young adults using Foundry. These interviews were key to revealing how young people decide to access professional help with their problems – or suffer in silence.

In simple terms, part of the UTB framework that Dr. Ben-David and her student assistants employed during research interviews posit that intent to do something emanates from five “structures,” among which are social norms, emotions, and self-concept.

One example of emotional building, explains Dr. Ben David, is that seeking a service can be “really intimidating to a person, which will affect their decision making.” For example, depending on the social norms that some young people encounter in their families or communities, a young person seeking professional help for anxiety or depression may fear being stigmatized as a vulnerability.

Radha Ortiz, then a master’s student in social work, was one of Dr. Ben David’s graduate research assistants. She performed a variety of roles in the study; She helped build the research conceptual model, supported the writing of grants and related academic papers, and most importantly, conducted qualitative interviews with young foundries and their parents.

“It was a huge privilege to hear the stories of these young people and parents,” says Ortiz, who immigrated to Canada with her parents from Argentina. This experience navigating settlement in Canadian society instilled in Ortiz a passion for social work and justice, and led her to UBCO’s Clinical Social Work Program, where she focused on the mental health of young people.

“The sooner we can provide individuals with tools to understand themselves and their emotions, the better they will perform when life throws great adversity and challenges in their way.”

“Their desire to make change by participating in research was humbling and inspirational,” Ortiz recalls, when interviewing young people at Foundry. “For me, being a part of this study was very essential and came at a critical time in my studies when I was feeling far from people.” whom I hoped to serve afterwards. This experience revitalized my passion for social work.”

With the analysis of her research in hand, Dr. Ben-David wanted to quickly translate it to a larger audience. “That’s why we made animated videos. We wanted young people to translate the data. People from Foundry Richmond helped write scripts, design animation, and compose music.” To date, the team has created several short videos featuring BonBon, all designed to encourage young people to overcome any negative perceptions they may have about seeking health and social services.

“The kind of researcher I want to be is not just about writing academic papers, but also making sure my work is translatable to general audiences,” says Dr. Ben-David. She intends to get the findings in this study — and new findings about the gap between British Columbia youth accessing digital mental health technologies — to influence health and wellness policies across the country and help shape how organizations like Foundry can increase access to their services.

Ortiz now works as a clinical consultant at Interior Health, and continues to participate in research with Dr. Ben David’s Youth Mental Health Laboratory. Her experience as a graduate research assistant at UBCO has deepened her understanding of youth mental assistance and shaped her own approach to her clinical practice.

“What really sets me apart from the Foundry study – and which is reflected in my work – is the role emotions play in seeking help and mental health. The earlier we can equip individuals with tools to understand themselves and their emotions, the better they will do when life throws great adversity and challenges in their way.”

#Improving #mental #health #young #people #UBC #Okanagan #News

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *