Celebrating the strength and diversity of young adults with mental health challenges
January 04, 2014
January 04, 2014
In our continuing focus on the joy, brilliance, strength and fortitude of young adults who have had experience with receiving mental health services, I want to share with you one shining example of a youth-driven, stigma-smashing, positive approach to creating a safe space for young adults to express who they are.
Youth M.O.V.E. (Motivating Others through Voices of Experience) Oregon (YMO) is a youth led, state-wide, ever-expanding 501(c) 3 non-profit organization that is dedicated to improving the services and systems that foster and promote the positive growth of Oregon’s transitional age youth and young adults (ages 14-25) by using peer support and uniting the voices of individuals who have lived through and experienced a vast array of obstacles with various state-run systems including (but not limited to) mental health, addiction/recovery, juvenile justice, incarceration, foster care, education, and child welfare. YMO provides community members with drop-in centers, youth support groups, and various trainings dedicated to helping at-risk youth and young adults.
Youth M.O.V.E. Oregon embodies all that is good about young adults who have experience with the mental health delivery system who choose to rise above the fray of stereotype and stigma and make their own mark on what works best for them – driven by their perspective and experience, not that of someone else. Fans of the Network know well that we love this kind of spirit and are most excited to share it.
Recently I had the opportunity to visit with Martin Rafferty, Executive Director of Youth M.O.V.E. Oregon to discuss their program, philosophy and approach to working with young adults. One of the things he said during our conversation that struck a chord with me was that in any of the five YMO locations throughout the state of Oregon anyone is welcome to participate. Even though the focus is on youth with emotional challenges, diagnostic criteria or stigmatizing labeling is never used and, quite frankly, is a non-issue. The focus is on building strengths and leadership so that youth can give back to their community. Sort of puts a different lens on things, doesn’t it?
This multi-faceted youth-led organization does it all – from motivational speaking to workshops and training, consulting and technical assistance, all from a youth perspective. One of Rafferty’s greatest wishes is for our nation to come to a point where “every story about the failures of the mental health system (which are often justly deserved) is accompanied by a story about examples of success. For it is success that we need to build on, not failure.” Well-spoken Mr. Rafferty!
Here are just a few of the many accolades and accomplishments this young organization has earned in the past few years:
The Clackamas Drop
The Clackamas Drop, a YMO operated drop in center is the flagship of the program. The center has been so successful it is being replicated 300 miles away in Medford Oregon. The program in Medford is slated to open in early 2014. Peer services offered by YMO and other youth peer organizations have saved the county more than $100k a year, by estimates of Clackamas County Behavior Health. Most youth who initially enter the doors of the drop in center, have no idea that the location they are visiting offers mental health services. The focus of the center is on bridging services to young adults by being “Stigma Aware.” The staff that work for the drop in center are trained peer support specialists, yet without the large badge bearing the YMO logo you wouldn’t know they were staff. Rafferty describes the approach of staff at the Drop as “leading from behind.”
The process for working with youth who visit the YMO Drop is straightforward and strengths-based:
Youth M.O.V.E. Oregon has a focus on reaching young adults who can’t visit services directly. Compelling outreach includes creating videos, Hip Hop Style Art, and other multimedia projects. One of these campaigns is known as the Silent Watch, which is Youth M.O.V.E. Oregon’s take on “inspirational” quotes, featuring a youth often wearing a black hoodie. The symbolism of the hood speaks to many young adults. This campaign has helped reached young adults from across the nation. Here are a couple of examples of Silent Watch posters. You can see them all on the Youth M.O.V.E. website.
What’s ahead for 2014
The over 5,00 twitter and 3,000 facebook followers of YMO have much to look forward to in 2014. In addition to continuing to strengthen their outreach centers, YMO will be conducting a series of celebrity and policymaker interviews, beginning with Scott Adams, the artist behind Dilbert and a critically acclaimed author. In the interview Scott Adams will give tips to young adults on how to beat apathy in a seemingly bureaucratic world. We at the Network can’t wait to read this interview!
Finally, enjoy this 15 minute documentary video that introduces you to what Youth M.O.V.E. Oregon stands for. It will give you just a hint why we are so excited about this up and coming generation of mental health advocates who refuse to be defined by a label.
We have so much work to do to turn the tide of misguided opinion about who youth with mental health challenges are. Youth M.O.V.E. Oregon is doing their part. What are you doing? Send us your examples of youth-driven efforts for young people with emotional challenges and we will profile them so the collective voice of the Network can learn, share, educate and advocate for our next generation of leaders.
President & CEO
Children’s Mental Health Network