"My time with the program gave me a new perspective on things and showed me that I could change how I think."
The pandemic changed the world as we know it. Everyday things we used to take for granted – like the ability to visits loved ones, attend public events or go to school in person – were no longer simple matters.
“I felt like a ticking timebomb,” says 15-year-old Bailey from Fort Erie, who found her mental well-being severely affected as the pandemic progressed. “There was stress because of school and I was being bullied through texts, and the isolation caused by the pandemic made everything worse.”
In December 2021, Bailey reached her “breaking point” when she lost her job, causing her anxiety to soar even higher.
“I felt trapped, like there was no way out,” she recalls. “That’s when I visited the emergency department in St. Catharines, and I was referred to McMaster Children’s Hospital from there.”
Bailey and her mother, Kathy, were connected with a therapist through the Mental Health Assessment Unit at McMaster Children’s Hospital’s Emergency Department (ED).
They were asked if they were willing to participate in a clinical trial called I AM SAFE, which is designed to standardize the care of patients like Bailey who present to the ED with mental-health challenges. With this program, the hope is to reduce self-harm and suicide amongst young people.
IAM SAFE, which is a collaboration between McMaster Children’s Hospital, SickKids Hospital and Alberta Children’s Hospital, provides tools and resources that can be used outside of the hospital setting to help the entire family during difficult times.
“We learned about the difference resources that would be available, so we said yes immediately,” says Kathy. “We were willing to do anything necessary to help Bailey, and we realized that it’s okay to not be okay.”
For the next six weeks, Bailey and Kathy consulted with their therapist every week and they talked about healthy strategies to cope with anxieties and ways to reframe stressful situations when they come up in life.
The pandemic made it necessary for them to consult virtually, but even though they were unable to meet with the therapist in person, Bailey and Kathy found their time together extremely valuable.
“My time with the program gave me a new perspective on things and showed me that I could change how I think,” explains Bailey. “It enabled me to break down my thought process, and it helped me realize that things weighing me down today might not matter so much later.”
Bailey’s mental well-being has improved significantly since participating in the clinical trial. By sharing their experience with I AM SAFE, Kathy and Bailey hope they can help reduce the stigma associated with mental health.
“IAM SAFE is a phenomenal program that truly did help,” says Kathy. “There shouldn’t be a stigma associated with getting help when you need it, and we’re so glad we did.”
Resources for families: https://bit.ly/42lUtrf