February 28, 2024

Local Car Dealership’s Donation Drives Support for Culturally Responsive Mental Health Care

A new $38,000 gift from Johnston Chrysler Jeep Ram is supporting the YouThrive program at St. Joe’s Youth Wellness Centre (YWC). YouThrive is an innovative community-based program that provides mental health and substance use care to Black, Indigenous and racialized children, youth and families in Hamilton. YouThrive is run in partnership with Lynwood Charlton Centre, Hamilton Regional Indian Centre, City School by Mohawk College and De dwa da dehs nye>s Aboriginal Health Centre.

This generous donation will enable the YWC to continue to provide funding for a youth mentor role for an individual who identifies as Black, Indigenous or People of Colour (BIPOC), and has lived experience navigating the mental health and substance use services system.

Téana Vickers (pictured above) is a peer support provider within the YouThrive program at St. Joe’s YWC. Drawing from her firsthand experience with mental health concerns and navigating the healthcare system as a racialized person, she’s able to intimately understand the journey of BIPOC youth and help them to take steps towards their self-chosen wellness goals.

“Peer mentors play a pivotal role in youth engagement,” Téana shares. “Oftentimes, youth who come into the YouThrive program might be hesitant or apprehensive about engaging with mental health services due to systemic discrimination and mistrust in systems. Being able to meet with someone their own age, who has navigated similar challenges, empowers youth to share their feelings and articulate their concerns with confidence and clarity, helping them get connected to the different services we offer.”

Another part of what makes this program unique is that YouThrive has a mobile structure, which means that the mentors and clinicians are able to meet with youth wherever they are most comfortable – whether that’s at a local park, community centre, coffee shop or connecting virtually. This helps to reduce any barriers to accessing treatment and makes the sessions more comfortable and less intimidating.

In addition to bolstering the peer mentorship aspect of the program, Johnston Chrysler Jeep Ram’s generous gift will also fuel the YouThrive Tuition Fund for racialized youth, to help remove financial barriers for clients pursuing higher education. Whether it’s covering the cost of tuition fees or purchasing textbooks, this support represents more than just financial assistance, it symbolizes a pathway towards a brighter future.

“As a former YWC Youth Council member, I had the opportunity to participate in the tuition fund selection panel and have seen firsthand the impact these funds can make,” Téana says. “This support from Johnston Chrysler Jeep Ram will help youth who are often on their own and doing all they can to make it by. Many of our youth who have received scholarships from the tuition fund have multiple intersectional identities, like a learning disability or ADHD, so this funding also helps with accessibility.”

This gift will also support recruitment for the Youth Ambassador program, which is distinct to the YouThrive stream.

“Youth ambassadors are really that youth voice within the YouThrive program, to make sure that everything we do is youth-centred,” explains Téana. Each ambassador will receive an honorarium for their participation in focus groups and feedback sessions to ensure that YouThrive’s current programming addresses the needs of Black, Indigenous and racialized youth in our community. They will also assist with social media research and content creation, giving them the opportunity to build skills within the sector where there’s underrepresentation for BIPOC voices.

St. Joe’s couldn’t be more grateful to Johnston Chrysler Jeep Ram for their continued support. Together, we are driving change and ensuring that BIPOC youth have access to culturally responsive mental health and substance use care when and where they need it.

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