July 12 saw the first community forum of the Bipolar Youth Action Project, a collaboration of CREST.BD and the Bipolar Disorder Society of British Columbia. Held at the Victoria Event Centre, the forum welcomed 21 youth all with a diagnosis of bipolar disorder (BD), to discuss coping and wellness strategies from their perspectives. “What works for you” served as the operative question, and the youth had much to say.
Present also were youths’ supporters, an array of research and clinical professionals, and members of the Youth Action Group (YAG). The YAG has been driving the project since its inception, and played a critical role in the shaping and delivery of forum activities. The YAG led, planned and facilitated workshops as well as supported with event planning details that made the day a success. The entire team’s high level of empathy and consideration for the range of potential experience by youth with BD was evident. For example, the day-long event included three different safeguards to provide calm and support should attendees experience anxiety: a quiet room to take a moment off, support cards that pre-emptively outlined individual ways youth prefer to be supported if triggered, and a team of clinical professionals to lend an ear should it be needed.
The day’s discussion was complemented with different types of grounding and mindfulness activities to ensure participants had opportunities to reflect and relax. Themes and the shape of the day was captured through graphic facilitation — an evocative way of recording discussions, which acknowledges that we all have different ways of processing information.
The second BYAP forum was be held on November 15, 2015, which was set up very similarly to the first forum but with some content changes. Most notably, the youth participated in a “World Café” where they participated in a focus group on how they want to receive information about BD. The knowledge gained from this day was just as profound as the first day, and further updates and insights gleamed from this project will be posted in the near future.