Peer Leader Mental Health – Trauma Awareness
The Peer Leader Mental Health Program is a 3-day certificate course delivered to youth between the ages of 15-21 years old. The main purpose of this workshop is to help Inuit youth cope with receiving disclosures of abuse. This workshop does not train youth to provide peer counseling support, it focuses on how to receive a peer disclosure safely, how to connect peers with other supports and services, and how to take care of oneself along the way. To help make sense of their experiences and foster hope and resilience, participants also learn about the context of historical trauma that has led to the high rates of abuse in Inuit communities today. The revision of this program is intended to increase Inuit and Nunavut specific content, and incorporate more input from the target audience. This revision process and delivery of pilots will create a natural pool of trained and supported facilitators and create a program and community dedicated to supporting youth in Nunavut.
The Arctic Children and Youth Foundation (ACYF) located in Iqaluit, NU, is a not-for profit charitable organization established in 2004 that undertakes projects affecting children and youth across the circumpolar North. In 2015, during the Umingmak Child and Youth Support Centre feasibility study, the ACYF UCYSC team performed community consultations in Iqaluit, Rankin Inlet and Cambridge Bay, as well as received input from over 75 online surveys from Nunavummiut, and met directly with youth, teachers, guidance counselors and local key first responders that act when a disclosure of abuse occurs from child and youth victims of crime. The Peer Leader Mental Health project directly responds to an urgent community call to action to support child and youth victims of crime, particularly where other youth such as teenagers are being approached by their peers to hear disclosures of harm and are expected to provide advice and emotional support. The Peer Leader Mental Health Program was created after the UCYSC community consultation and survey input was conducted. It was reported that teenaged youth who are considered “healthy” and are known among their peers to have experienced harm are being approached by other youth as a conduit of disclosures. In many cases, youth trust other youth as a safe way to share their stories (usually historic cases of disclosure, but at times also immediate incidences) and request advice on “what to do next” and where they may be able to access emotional support or mental health services. This places a large burden on the youth being disclosed to; they may not know answers and where to access these services, and are left to try to help their peers with no resources and support. This can trigger, cause re-traumatization and make the peer being disclosed to feel helpless.