March 2, 2023

Thriving Well in the Workforce

A $20,000 grant from Co-operators Community Funds is helping Hamilton’s young Black, Indigenous and Racialized communities meet their career goals, while gaining access to mental health care.

The program is called Thriving Well and is made possible, in part, by a new grant of $20,000 from Co-operators Community Funds. Thriving Well supports individuals ages 16-25 who need assistance with their job hunt or support to maintain their employment. The program offers mental health care in a safe and welcoming space, while also helping participants to reach their workforce goals.

In addition to providing access to medical care, young people in the program are invited to participate in a series of professional development and self-care workshops to equip them with the tools they need for:

  • Employment pathways and preparation (résumé writing, interview preparation, job search skills);
  • Financial literacy (creating a budget, managing debt and savings);
  • Health and well-being skill building (stress management, mindfulness, short-term membership at the YMCA);
  • Managing and coping with race-based stressors and human rights concerns in the workplace.

“Those who are Black, Indigenous and Racialized, in particular, face additional barriers to accessing care – which can make finding and keeping meaningful employment a real challenge,” says Lisa Jeffs, Manager of the Youth Wellness Centre (YWC) at St. Joe’s.

A lack of diversity represented in the mental health care workforce creates one such barrier, Jeffs explains. Black, Indigenous and Racialized communities experience unique challenges which can negatively affect their mental well-being. Oftentimes, when a mental health care provider isn’t affected by or aware of those challenges, they’re not as easily able to provide mental health care that is culturally sensitive or responsive to the impacts of systemic racism.

“Through Thriving Well, clinicians and peer support workers have the lived experience to deliver culturally appropriate care to racialized young people, while also inspiring and facilitating opportunities for these marginalized youth to create a better future for themselves,” Jeffs adds.

So far, since launching in the summer of 2022, a number of young people have completed the program, with many positive outcomes.

“My favourite part of the program was building a safe space and community with the other participants,” says one young person from the program. “It made participating and learning feel a lot more interactive and fun. I’m glad to have made the relationships I had through this program!”

“It was THE best impulse decision I have ever made,” adds another participant. “I met the coolest and kindest creatives. They expanded my worldview and equipped me with the skills and knowledge important for a BIPOC Queer youth like me.”

“We are proud to support St. Joe’s Thriving Well program,” says Shawna Peddle, Associate Vice President, Citizenship. “Co-operators Community Funds are purposefully designed to support organizations like St. Joe’s that are empowering underserved youth living with mental illness to progress along their own pathway towards meaningful, lasting employment and recovery.”

Thriving Well is an offshoot of YouThrive, a mobile mental health program that St. Joe’s launched in June 2021 to boost access to care for racialized youth and their families in Hamilton. In addition to City School by Mohawk, Thriving Well is run in partnership with Thrive Child and Youth Trauma ServicesDe dwa da dehs nye>s Aboriginal Health Centre, and the Hamilton Regional Indian Centre.

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