Yesterday, five youth and I took to the XrayLima Co. boardroom in Victoria, BC, sat around a table and dialed in psychologist and researcher Erin Michalak from CREST.BD. There were several questions that Erin and I had for the group and as we design our ‘Bipolar Youth Action Project’. It proved invaluable to partake in conversations with youth with bipolar disorder. We began with exploring how they stay well in the first place. There were an array of strategies described – two big topics of discussion were exercise and meaningful engagement in activities. A variety of kinds of exercise were described, from riding a bike through downtown Victoria or strolling around Thetis Lake. The youth we spoke to also engaged in a diverse array of activities: work, challenging studies, or doing anything constructive to help maintain positivity and balance.
Laughs were shared and the creative juices started boiling when asked “how should we communicate all of this important information on staying well with other youth with bipolar disorder?” The group had some great ideas around social media. Facebook of course is popular and powerful, and was seen as a great way to get out the word that ‘youth ought to be talking about their mental health.’ The group explored the possibility of communicating this same message through various channels, such as a school assembly presentation or YouTube Video. Imagine being able to showcase bipolar disorder by getting a glimpse of the life of someone who actually lives and breathes the illness and envision sharing the thoughts and words of the people who know it well.
The group had some very strong opinions on the importance of doing such a project, which they thought could be empowering and helpful to their own wellness, while at the same time providing education to others. Getting together on a Sunday afternoon a few days before school starts really made this group’s dedication apparent and the session proved to be fruitful and rewarding. The youth even recognized that while such work could prove stressful, with the right supports (including our great research team), they were confident they would be successful in their endeavours. I have never been touched by such enthusiasm and passion; we hope that others will also see the potential this research has for making an immense and long-lasting impact.
Comments from Youth:
"The first meeting of the project made me feel quite optimistic about what us, as youth with bipolar disorder are able to accomplish in reaching out to our peers and furthering the elimination of mental health stigma in our society." Lara 21.
"I feel that the session held the other day was a prime example of how youth of a very diverse group can come together. We talked about how we could get such an important subject of our lives into the hearts of others. I'm very proud to be one if the leaders of this research team." Steven, 22.
"I learned a lot about how other people deal with bipolar and it made me feel less alone, I really liked exploring the idea of using social media as a way of raising awareness." Christine, 16.
"Yesterday's research group was an eye opener to the fact that we are not alone. We brainstormed ideas on how to keep happy, and safe and it brought us all together with the common desire of wanting to live a long happy life, regardless of our mental illness." Sascha, 16.
"Although I was quieter than the rest of the group I felt excited about the possibilities that this project could offer. I could help myself tremendously and most of all enrich the lives of others." Jennifer, 20.
For a more in-depth summary of findings visit the following link
Pictures used with permission of participants. Real names of participants were not used for this blog.