Youth Mental Health Assistance 101
For Youth By Youth
Action sentences are summarized in CHURROS. CHURROS provides a conversation guide for safe support people. The goal is to have conversations that:
Build rapport & trust to help a young person speak openly
Listen to understand the situation fully
Encourage a young person to reach out to supports by offering hope that recovery to improved mental wellbeing is possible
Encourage a young person to reach out to supports by encouraging personal choice and responsibility for mental health
C - Contact
H - Hear Out
U - Understand
R - Reassurance
R - Reach appropriate professional help
O - Other Supports
S - Self Help
I’ve noticed…, How are you? How long…?
I see, It sounds like…, Is that right?
rephrase and repeat what the person has told you, ask if you are understanding correctly, don’t be afraid to clarify
It’s understandable, You’re not alone, Supports can help
What has helped? Could you reach out to…?
Other supports? Family, Friends, Community, Spiritual?
What went well? How am I feeling about the discussion?
CHURROS Core Considerations
C - Core Considerations
Where is a good place to make contact?
When is a good time?
How would you express your concerns? (what would you say and do?)
U - Core Considerations
Am I fully understanding what the young person is telling me?
Have I double checked so there isn't a misunderstanding?
Are there any points I should avoid when clarifying?
R - Core Considerations
How can I aid with help-seeking?
What are the local options?
Does the young person need professional help?
H - Core Considerations
What attitudes do I want to convey?
What verbal/non verbal skills help to express these attitudes?
What should I avoid?
R - Core Considerations
What can I say to offer emotional support?(reassurance)?
That they are not alone
That supports are available
O - Core Considerations
What other supports are available?
What self-help strategies are there?
How can I encourage the young person to use there self-help strategies?
Self - Help
The ”S” action sentence in CHURROS provides an important reminder to reflect, take care of your own mental health and to reach out to supports if needed.
You may also need to deal with the feelings and reactions you set aside during the encounter.
It can be helpful to find someone to talk to about what has happened while respecting the privacy of the person you've helped.
C - How am I doing? What’s changed? How long have I been feeling this way?
H - Am I hearing my own signs? Am I ignoring or minimizing symptoms? What about self-stigma?
U - Do I understand why I'm feeling this way? Do I need help understanding my feelings or just someone to talk to?
R - Am I aware of impacts? Do I know supports that could help?
R - What has helped in the past? Would it help to reach out to…?
O - Can I think of others to reach out to?
Role of a Safe Support Person
Youth mental health assistance is the help offered for:
Declining mental well-being
Youth mental health assistance is NOT:
Using medical language
How you, as a safe support person, can help:
Recognize changes (possible signs)
Initiate a conversation
Encourage a person to reach out to professional and other supports
What is the role of a safe support person?
Notice changes and possible signs
Help a person feel safe talking openly
Discuss supports for recovery to improved well-being
Assist in a crisis and offer support
When having these difficult conversations with a young person making sure they know that what they are feeling is valid and give them that validation.
Giving validation and showing empathy will ensure a comfortable space for the young person to feel heard and understood.
"I can see how you would feel that way"
"If you hadn't done that it wouldn't have happened"
"That must be really hard"
"Others have it worse than you"
"I bet you're frustrated"
"You should feel lucky"
"I'm here for you"
"You are too sensitive"
Reluctance to talk:
I want to help
It seems like you may not be ready to help
I'd be glad to talk when you're ready
Reluctance to reach out to supports:
Respect the persons right not to seek help
Exception - risk of harm to themselves or others
Reacts with aggressive behavior:
Speak slowly and confidently
Invite the person to sit down
Give space to move
Take a break
Use positive words (e.g. let's talk about this)
Be aware of stigmatizing language
Use respectful alternatives
Listen without judgement
How to Communicate Effectively:
Try different settings
Don't make comparisons
Provide positive feedback
Help them find the language
When speaking with youth be careful not to use stigmatizing language
See chart for some examples
Calling the police will increase fear
Often people who react aggressively are victims of aggression
Problem VS Crisis Vs Emergency
Talking about suicide
Acting on suicidal thoughts
Change interferes with ability to cope
Severe impairment by substances
Potential for immediate harm to themselves or others
Change doesn't go away
Self-harm that doesn't require immediate medical attention
Self-harm that requires immediate medical attention
If someone is in crisis, plan to connect them with supports.
If it's an emergency, connect them with supports right away.
Pronouns and the 2SLGBTQIA+ Community
When someone asks you to use their pronouns, they are asking for you to respect their identity and them as a person.
When someone refers to another person using the wrong pronouns, especially on purpose, that can lead to that person feeling disrespected and invalidated.
As a basic rule of thumb, if you are unsure of someone's pronouns just ask!
she/her/hers, he/him/his, they/them/theirs
Non - Binary: Non-Binary means identifying as a gender that is not entirely male or female. It may be both, neither, partially one, or anything else not entirely male or female. Non-Binary can also be an umbrella term for any genders outside the gender binary.
Two - Spirit: Two-Spirit is an umbrella term that bridges Indigenous and Western understanding of gender and sexuality. Prior to European Contact, Many North American Indigenous Cultures viewed gender and sexuality as fluid.
Stigmatizing vs Respectful
He lives with schizophrenia
He's a schizophrenic
Substance use problem
They suffer from depression
They live with/are experiencing depression
Died by suicide
Failed/Unsuccessful suicide attempt
They used to be an addict
They are in recovery
It drives me crazy
It bothers/ annoys/ frustrates me
Person living with a mental illness/ mental health problem
Person who uses substances
Possible Signs of Declining Mental Health
Not sleeping well
Not taking care of self
Loss of motivation
Not doing well at work, school or other activities
Changes in humor
Increased substance use
Self - harm
Note: It's usually easier to create a safety plan before the problem reaches a crisis or emergency
How can I help?
Asses the situation - is it a Crisis, Problem or Emergency?
Create a safety plan if one is not already made
What is a safety plan?
Agreement between person struggling & their safe support person
Goal is to keep the person safe
Safety plan in a crisis:
Focus on what they could do
Find out what has helped in the past
Be realistic with timelines
Include contact information
Safety plan in an emergency:
Ask permission to contact supports
Contact health center, crisis line (first responders as a last resort)
Ask for advice
May need to breach confidentiality for safety
Stay with the person until:
Help is received
Crisis resolves/ You're confidant that the person is safe
Goals / things worth living for
Some distractions that work for me...
My support network can help me by...
Some coping mechanisims that work for me...
Some safe people I can contact...
Some safe places I can go...
Your Life Is Valuable
Others have told me how valuable my life is, but they want to make sure that I know how valuable my life is. Since it can be hard to focus and think clearly when I'm having these dark thoughts, I agree to put this safety plan in places where I can easily use it. Such as my wallet, bag or by the phone. In an emergency I can call 911 and tell the operator that I am in suicidal danger or go to the nearest emergency room. If I feel that I cannot get to the hospital safely, I can call 911 and request transportation to the hospital.
will use this plan to get the help I need to keep myself safe when I'm struggling
For you to sign:
For your safe support person to sign:
Download a PDF copy here