When Cathy Butler started as a pediatric nurse more than two decades ago there was no training on how to work with youth experiencing suicidal thoughts.
She spent 23 years in that role, seeing her share of heartbreak and dealing with families who had no idea where to turn for help.
"Sometimes youth would get the help they needed, other times families were sent home with no idea who to call. Parents had questions and didn't know who to ask."
For the past four years Butler has sat on the Sarnia Lambton Suicide Prevention Committee. The committee, which has representation from 22 local agencies, developed a "We Care Package" that volunteers began assembling this week at Sarnia Lambton Rebound. The packages will be provided to youth dealing with mental health issues, as part of Children's Mental Health Week beginning May 4.
"The packages are meant to be a practical help and support for youth who are in this very difficult situation of experiencing thoughts of suicide. They are meant to also provide some hope and direction for the youth and their parent or caregiver," Butler said.
"Ideally, we want them to realize that there are many people and organizations in Sarnia Lambton who want to work together with them to help them to want to live. "
Package items include stress balls, activities, treats and snacks, a water bottle, personal hygiene products, pamphlets and information on local services, emergency numbers, a letter of support, and other items.
Butler said some of the contents came from suggestions by youth who have made the journey through local mental health services. The committee also included a feedback form, which Butler says is used to improve the service.
"We want youth to know that there are a lot of people in this community they can turn to for help."
Local businesses and health providers have also supported the initiative. There was also some funding left from a $28,500 youth suicide prevention grant from the Ministry of Child and Youth Services that supported several community initiatives.
While the Sarnia Lambton Suicide Prevention Committee focuses on the entire life span, these packages are youth-focused because that is what the government grant stipulates.
The first 50 bags will be provided to the emergency department at Bluewater Health to be provided to youth dealing with a mental health crisis. The packages will then be provided to other service providers.
Other initiatives taking place during Children's Mental Health Week include:
• May 5 - The Book Keeper donating half of the proceeds from purchases to St. Clair Child and Youth
• May 6, 11:30- 1:30 - The Workplace Group offering free yoga and meditation at the Canatara Park band shell
• May 4-8 - Messages of hope and window art posted at Sarnia Lambton Rebound
Resources for Youth in Sarnia:
• Lambton Mental Health Crisis Service (professional counsellors) 519-336-3445 or 1-800-307-4319
• Distress Line - 519-336-3000 or 1-888-347-8737
• Kid's Help Phone - 1-800-668-6868, www.kidshelpphone.ca
• Good 2 Talk, ages 17-25 - 1-866-925-5454, www.good2talk.ca
• St. Clair Child and Youth Services - 519-337-3701, www.stclairchild.ca
• Sarnia Lambton Rebound - 519-344-2841, www.reboundonline.com
• Canadian Mental Health Association - 519-337-5411, www.cmha.ca
• Family Counselling Centre - 519-336-0120, www.familycounsellingctr.com
• Withdrawal Management Program - 519-332-HOPE (4673)
• Sarnia Lambton, Children's Aid Society - 519-336-0623
• Aamjiwnaang First Nation Health Centre - 519-332-6770
• Sarnia Lambton Suicide Prevention Committee - 519-932-6101, www.sarnialambtonsuicideprevention.com
• Other websites - www.mindyourmind.ca, www.kidsmentalhealth.ca, www.teenmentalhealth.org, www.thenewmentality.ca, www.jack.org, www.211ontario.ca