The Kelty Centre Youth Ambassador program is a youth engagement program that brings together young people from all over the province in creative projects that aim to raise mental health awareness and reduce stigma in schools and communities across BC. This program is led by the Kelty Centre’s Youth in Residence workers.
This year, the youth ambassadors created a set of bookmarks that held words of encouragement and self-care tips cast against the backdrop of bright and vivid colours that they had designed themselves. The ambassadors were encouraged to share the bookmarks with their friends, fellow students, youth in their communities; as well as hidden in library books, taped underneath desks, and tucked away in fun, creative places where someone could come across it and pick it up – with the idea that it might just brighten up their day.
The following are testimonials from a few of the Kelty Youth Ambassadors this year on what it meant to them to be a part of this program and how young people in this province can make a change in their schools and communities:
When I joined the Youth Ambassador Program in 2018, I had no previous experience with raising mental health awareness and very little experience even discussing the topic of mental illness in any context. I had been burdened by self-stigmatization for years which stopped me from being able to even physically say words like “depression” and “suicide”. But from early on in the YA Program, I felt myself growing in confidence, as I was surrounded by an inspiring group of peers who were open, honest, and passionate about making a difference in the field of mental health.
After years of feeling alone in my mental illness, I found myself among a group of strangers who had many similar experiences as myself. I started to realize that while everyone is on their own entirely unique journey in life, sometimes you meet at a crossroad and find that you’ve walked some of the same paths. Being a Youth Ambassador, I was able to take part in really important and inspiring conversations about what’s being done in the community to make a difference and erase the stigma surrounding mental health. I got to make and share one-of-a-kind bookmarks filled with resources, words of encouragement, and advice on taking care of your mental health.
The Youth Ambassador Program gave me a space to engage in change-making in a personal and intentional way, which left me feeling so fulfilled. It taught me many priceless lessons and inspired me in the most meaningful ways. St. Francis of Assisi once said, “For it is in giving that we receive,” and that could not be more true about the Youth Ambassador Program; for everything that you give of yourself, you will get so much more in return. The opportunity to be a part of this program is not one that I ever would have seen myself having, but this year as a Youth Ambassador has left me feeling so honoured, humbled, and most importantly, insanely grateful.
— Kristen De Beer
I am so incredibly grateful to have been a part of the Youth Ambassador program this year. The program truly cultivates a unified sense of passion for mental health advocacy. It not only brings like-minded youth together to raise mental health awareness but serves as an ongoing source of unconditional support – spurring growth and positivity. I particularly enjoyed working with the inspiring Youth Ambassador team in addition to getting the privilege of hearing the stories and perspectives of those in our communities regarding their own experiences concerning mental health.
Opening up to others about one’s struggles is understandably not the easiest thing to do, so I believe that the mere existence of programs like these are integral to furthering the ongoing dialogue concerning mental health. Not to sound cliche but I believe that coming together to support one another creates a genuine ripple effect. An act of kindness no matter “how small” is still an act of kindness. Fittingly, I was honoured to be a part of an impactful project that as Veronica (one of the Youth in Residence) beautifully put is “changing the narrative around mental health – one bookmark at a time.”
I am very proud and thankful for my fellow ambassadors, the Youth in Residence, and more generally, all of those who are working towards a better mental health landscape. I recommend this program to youth who are not only interested creating positive change but furthering their own personal development. I would be more than happy to sit down with any youth who would like to learn more about my experience or the program – together, we can make a difference!
— Jennifer Phi
Being a Youth Ambassador for Kelty Youth Mental Health Centre’s Youth Ambassador Program 2018-2019 cohort was such a rewarding and educating experience. It opened my eyes to the ever-changing landscape on how to address mental health and the stigma attached to it. I previously thought I was equipped enough all on my own to garner awareness of this cause, but I did not fully grasp how different other people’s’ perceptions in life are in comparison to mine. My exposure increased exponentially through our meeting discussions, hearing how vastly different experiences and opinions can be. The opportunity to hear from some of the Health Literacy team was my highlight from the whole experience. It allowed ambassadors such as myself to ask from people with professional expertise (besides from our Youth in Residence members) on how they got to where they are currently and some of their methods to address the issue. With all the insight I’ve acquired through this experience, I can educate others with a better approach and understanding of the topic.
— Annelyn Batiao
I became a Kelty Mental Health Ambassador in Autumn of 2017. Through this volunteering initiative, I began to work with like-minded people with equal interest in helping others. Our work for the past two years has mainly consisted of creative endeavours, such as poetry and custom bookmarks, in order to spread a message of tolerance and help with the reduction of stigma surrounding such a sensitive topic. Through this journey, one step consistently led to the next. Opportunities to meet other passionate individuals rose up in time just as questions in my mind tugged me forward. Perhaps most surprising was that even the most experienced ambassadors were once contemplating how to just have their voices heard. My general take-away from the Youth Ambassador Program has been that the issues that we are creating awareness for are not easily solvable. There is no clear answer, and no one has the road planned out. However, the single first step is always right in front of you, ready to be trekked. If you start there, even with only your voice in your arsenal, you can undeniably start to make a difference.
— Ashkan Doremami
You can find more information on the Youth Ambassador program click here. You can also find a few of the designed bookmarks below to download and print.
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