Does connection speak to the issue of youth homelessness and youth at risk? Does connection speak to youth struggling with mental illness?
Indeed, it does more than we know.
Staggering stats reveal only the most severe outcomes of what it looks like when connection is void.
Out of 689 homeless youth across Canada interviewed:
43% had previous involvement with Child Protection Services
68% came from foster care, group homes
42% described growing up in a chaotic home environment
37% witnessed substance abuse in their families
There are 65,000 homeless youth in Canada and anxiety is reported as a debilitating condition for them. 33% suffer from Major Depressive Disorder, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, high rates of suicide
Wonder how this effects YOU?
Check this out: It costs $30,000-$40,000 a year to keep 1 youth in a shelter
That is costing taxpayers 4.5-6 billion dollars annually! No youth wakes up and wants homelessness to be their reality. No parent wanted this for their child either. If no one really wants this reality, that means this can be avoided, but how? Yes to youth resiliency and putting support systems in place for youth already at risk or on the streets, but what if we could prevent youth homelessness by helping families find health and connection again? Getting a family back to health could save our country 6 billion dollars. Maybe it’s time to take a closer look at this type of prevention.
According to Raise the Roof’s Youth Homelessness In Canada, The Road to solutions, they state, “Prevention and supports are key: Youth who are left unsupported – lacking role models, employment opportunities, educational options, access to safe, affordable housing and, all too often, in poor health and suffering from a crippling lack of self-esteem – frequently become a cost to society. Providing support now could prevent these young people from becoming homeless adults and sinking permanently into a costly cycle of homelessness and dependence on the state. Research has demonstrated that the key to helping youth move toward the path of opportunity frequently requires appropriate interventions at the “critical moments” in a young person’s life. Prevention addresses the key triggers of youth homelessness, which are tied to family-related issues and systems reform.”
In a recently released study, Jeff Karabanow, a professor at Dalhousie University, stated that “family life prior to street entrance was characterized by:
- – physical, sexual, and/or emotional abuse
- – violence and substance abuse within the home
- – family instability, including numerous transitions and moves (i.e., divorce, separation, introduction of step-parents and step-children, moving residences, changing cities and shifting living arrangements).
Prevention is the key to solving youth homelessness. How can you and I help prevent youth homelessness? It’s easier than you think:
- 1. Fight for your family. Do whatever it takes to keep your love on and stay connected. Get counselling, access mental health help, etc. It could keep your own children from becoming at risk.
- 2. Take care of yourself as a parent; look inside, be willing to face challenges with bravery and honesty. Be proactive to stay health physically, emotionally, and mentally. Eat properly, exercise, get a good sleep, take a mental health check to see if medication or counselling is needed. Aquire good coping skills to stress that avoid alcohol and altering substances. Healthy parent, healthy children. How many families are torn and youth in distress just because parents couldn’t cope?
- 3. Don’t have kids of your own? Become a part of someone’s attachment village. Families need “aunties” and “uncles” who become positive role models to their children. Get involved in youth mentorship. 22% of homeless youth say they don’t have a positive role model in their life. You could change that.
CONNECTION brings resilience. That’s something we can all contribute to and make a difference in our own sphere of influence that will naturally ripple out to affect our communities and city.
I am making a show about family connection that you may be interested in. Where there is connection, people thrive. Where it is void, all kinds of unhealthy attachments arise. We want the audience to go away with determination to fight for their families and keep their love on. What inspired the creation of this show was the question I thought one day while leaving an at risk youth program. I wondered how many youth at risk could actually have been helped earlier if parents were given tools to help their child? This is something I’m realizing through my own parenting journey with my son. His ADHD, O.D.D., depression and slight Asbergers make life challenging and I can easily see if we weren’t able to find help that he could fall through the cracks as a result of us putting our hands up in surrender. I know what it’s like to watch my son writhe in self hatred and suicidal threats. I know what it’s like to be on the receiving end of his uncontrollable aggression. I identify with parents who have had to hide the knives, who have spent many a night having no idea where to turn for help.
How many youth are dropped off at youth shelters or At Risk Programs with parents who just can’t cope any longer? What if those parents could be helped? What difference could be made if parents were given resources? We could save a parent, which could save a youth. Our goal is for every parent to leave the show with a new found courage and determination to do whatever it takes for their family. We also wish to provide a list of resources in the show program so they can take immediate action after being moved by the message. That is sometimes half the battle for stressed, tired parents; not knowing where to look for help, and having no time or energy to look for it.
How many youth struggling with anxiety and/or hypersensitivity need someone they identify with? Our family therapist states it well and I agree, “Every child would do better if they could”. My son once said to me; “I’m ashamed of who I am”. He often wonders, “What’s WRONG with me and why can’t I help myself??” Empathy is powerful. When a youth can identify with someone who understands, there is a beginning of hope and a journey to face the road to health. In the show, Letters, the characters face the same struggles many youth do to create this Empathy. Our goal is for every youth to leave feeling they are not alone and with a new sense they have resilience to face the future.
We also hope that the show can open new lines of communication parents and their youth. If communication lines can open up, parents can “collect” their children again, as Gordon Neufeld talks about in his book, “Hold Onto Your Kids”.
Our show, Letters, coming up at the Big Secret Theatre in just over 2 weeks (Sept 30-Oct 4) is about this exact message. Get your tickets and become a part of the change. Tickets can be purchased by clicking here.
Stats provided on this blog post can be found at: