United Way launches peer-to-peer support program for KFL&A youth

Photo by Priscilla Du Preez.

The United Way of Kingston, Frontenac, Lennox & Addington has announced a new program to support youth in the region. The Youth Peer Support Program is a community-driven initiative that was identified through a special youth mental health committee spearheaded by Kingston Health Sciences Centre (KHSC) and United Way KFL&A. 

Through consultations with youth, the committee discussed multiple challenges youth often face when they are in crisis or are discharged from hospital, according to a release from the United Way. Youth indicated that having a peer walk with them through this experience would be “a tremendous help” during the transition.

The United Way noted that while there are peer support programs for adults, this community-based program is new for youth in the region. The program will work with youth ages 16 to 24 that will be referred to the program. This is unique to the Kingston program as referrals will come from three to four agencies serving youth instead of just one, as is the case in many peer support models. According to the release, youth seeking support will then be matched with trained peers, Youth Ambassadors, over the age of 18, with lived experience.

“Taking a page from the successful Peer-to-peer support model that has been an essential component for adult mental health and substance use health recovery, we now have the same option for youth in transition in Kingston,” explained Shawn Quigley, Executive Direction of Youth Diversion. “Who better to walk beside during your journey than someone who has already walked the pathway.”

This past summer Resolve Counselling Services hired a Youth Program Facilitator, with financial support from United Way.

“The Facilitator is working with youth and agencies to really develop a model that works for our community,” said Tara Everitt, Director of Community Services at Resolve. “We want young people to know they are not alone. We want to help support them to build hope. It is youth supporting youth. The hope is that in building these relationships we can connect them to services, whether that be mental health support, counselling supports, addictions supports or whatever they need and what they are going through, but do it in a way that works best for them.”

While the Peer Support Program was being developed, United Way KFL&A sought additional funding to develop and run the program, including paying for training and the positions of Youth Facilitator and Youth Ambassadors, according to the release. Thanks to generous grants from Yupi.ca Inc and the RBC Foundation, the program has been able to get off the ground.

“United Way has supported this program both by being the leaders in getting the community partners around the table to have these conversations and as part of their work on youth homelessness,” added Everitt. “But in addition to that, they are funding 100 per cent of the project thanks to these generous grants and the amazing support of the community.”

After the initial development of the program and pilot period over the next year, the program hopes to expand further to include more youth and agencies in the community and continue to provide prevention support for youth in the region.

For more information about the Peer Support Program visit https://www.unitedwaykfla.ca/blogpeersupport2022/

Leave a Reply

You cannot copy content from this page, please share the link instead!