Youth Advisory Council: Taking care of your mental health during COVID-19
The McMaster Children’s Hospital Youth Advisory Council (YAC) is a volunteer committee of youth, aged 12-18 years old, who have some knowledge or experience with MCH as a former patient or sibling. The purpose of the council is to provide a voice from youth themselves in advocating for MCH patients by providing feedback on quality improvement, environmental changes and patient-related projects. The YAC is also involved in planning and facilitating events for our inpatients, research projects, and projects that aim to engage children and youth.
The videos below were created by some members of the YAC to bring about awareness and the opportunity to become involved in the committee; to normalize speaking about mental health during the pandemic; and to demonstrate to the community that there is a group of youth advocating on behalf of patients to make sure the hospital experience is positive for them.
Hi there. My name’s Raynham. I’m from McMaster Children’s Hospital’s Youth Advisory Council. I’m 16, I love to play rugby, I love to read and write, and listen to music.
When I was 11, I was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes and because of that, I’ve been a patient at McMaster Children’s Hospital for four or five years, and I’ve also been on the committee for basically the same amount of time. I joined the committee after my experience in the hospital. There were small things that I noticed that could’ve been better, and I wanted to be able to actually bring that change and make the overall hospital experience for other kids better than mine. I wanted to be able to give back to the community that had helped me so much and wanted to be able to give something to all of the kids at McMaster Children’s Hospital so I decided to join and have been a member happily for the past few years.
Raynham’s advice for coping with mental health issues
With the pandemic, many people are struggling with their mental health and I’m included in that. But I’ve already dealt with mental health issues before so I know what to do. But for those of you who don’t, or are struggling in general, a little bit of advice that I have is make sure you’re talking to people, whether it’s just your friends or a family member.
- Vocalizing how you’re feeling can really make a world of difference, so make sure to do that. Make sure to contact the people in your life that you’d usually be seeing.
- Personally, I felt a little bit distanced from people in my life since I can’t see them in person, but when I zoom with my friends, it makes me feel so much better. So try to have that kind of normalness in your life by getting to talk to people who you’d usually talk to.
- And make sure to take time for yourself. Personally, I’ve been reading comfort books and stuff that makes me feel a lot better.
Just try your best. No one’s really doing great right now and this will end eventually and you’re doing wonderful.
Hi there, my name is Megan and I have been a member of McMaster Children’s Hospital’s Youth Advisory Council for a few months now as a mental health representative. I love watching horror movies, any funny TV show, and reading a lot of autobiographies. I joined the Youth Advisory Council because I feel that it was very important that mental issues and mental health issues are treated, addressed, and acknowledged to the same degree as physical health issues are and through my journey at McMaster, I have loved getting to know other patients who feel just as passionate about helping others as I do.
Megan’s tips for self-care
In our current situation, mental health is something that must be prioritized. And while our resources are limited, there are definitely ways we can cope at home. I’m going to be sharing some of my favourite tips, and if any of these resonate with you feel free to try them.
- First of all, I love scents. Any kind of bubble bath or candles really help ground me and keep me calm during some stressful times.
- I love books – A House in the Sky, a great autobiography, and I’m just starting Untamed. Two books that I very highly recommend.
- And lastly, music. I love listening to any kind of music, particularly songs that uplift my mood, so I’ll definitely be listening to some throwbacks to remind me of the good times, and then some current music to remember the good times that are to come.
I hope you were able to take something away from this and remember to stay safe and take care of yourselves.
Hi, I’m Illyria, a member of the Youth Advisory Council. I joined the council about five years ago shortly after completing cancer treatment at the age of 12 and since then I’ve had so much fun helping to organize events, giving advice and also spending time with teens with similar experiences as me. In my spare time, I really love riding my bike and singing along very badly to musical theatre soundtracks.
Illyria’s favourite spots around MCH
Today, I’m going to be showing you some of my favourite spots around the hospital.
- The Ronald McDonald Room has the best snacks, especially the cupcakes.
- When you’re in intensive care, beautiful murals like this really cheer you up.
- The Teen Lounge is a great place to hang out with friends get videos play air hockey or video games. It’s also where the Youth Advisory Council holds our yearly hockey tournaments.
- Sometimes it’s nice to treat yourself. All purchases from the Give Shop go to support the hospital as well.
- I love all the outdoor spaces around the hospital. They bring a little brightness to your day.
- The oncology clinic is probably where I spend the most time in the hospital. It’s a really wonderful place, filled with people who really care about you.
What are your favourite spots around the hospital?
Hey. I’m Eric and I’m from the McMaster Children’s Hospital Youth Advisory Council. I’m so glad to meet you today. I joined the YAC two years ago after being treated at McMaster Children’s for a rare stomach illness. The doctors and nurses who took care of me were incredibly kind and I wanted to show my gratitude for the amazing treatment that I’ve received and give back to the hospital community. I’d strongly recommend the Youth Advisory Council to anybody who’s been involved with the hospital in some way, whether as a patient or as the sibling of a patient. It’s a really fun and rewarding experience and I can’t recommend it enough.
Eric’s suggestions for helping boost your spirits
I know this pandemic has been hard for people our age. I miss my friends at school, I miss my sports practices. But even though we can’t do our favourite things, it’s still so important for us to find fun hobbies and activities to help us pass time and stay mentally healthy. So here’s what works for me.
- I keep in touch with my friends every night with FaceTime calls.
- I go outdoors and get some physical exercise whether that’s on walks with my family, or long bike rides on my own.
- When I want to relax, I’ll play some video games with my friends. Right now, we play a lot of Valorant, although I’m not very good at it.
- Other times, I’ll listen to my favorite band All Time Low. It’s an amazing pop punk band. Totally recommend you check them out.
- Finally, I make sure that every evening, I get a good eight hours of sleep. It really does make a difference.
At the end of the day, this is what keeps me happy and mentally healthy. Find what works for you. We’ll get through this together.
Getting exercise during the pandemic
Before the pandemic started, I would train every single day out on the ice as a national level figure skater, so it’s been pretty tough for me to see all of the rinks shut down. But for all us athletes, and everybody else, it’s so important that we find ways to keep physically healthy even through this pandemic.
- For example, get some fresh air outside on a jog or a walk.
- Or, go on a long bike ride. I’ve discovered so many cool parks and places in my city over the past year.
- Or, if the weather’s bad and you’re stuck inside, hop on an elliptical or a treadmill.
- If you don’t have any equipment, there are plenty of great strength and conditioning workouts or yoga routines that you can do online with YouTube.
Let’s make sure the pandemic doesn’t stop us from taking good care of our bodies and staying in shape.
Doctors and nurses want to help you
I wanted to share a little bit of advice from my own experience with a rare stomach illness. If you’re at the hospital, it’s probably not because everything’s perfect. There’s gonna be days where you feel pain emotionally or physically. Just remember in those moments that you have a big team of people to support you, whether it’s your parents or your siblings, or your friends, or the many many doctors and nurses at the children’s hospital. Never be afraid to reach out for help or support if you need it. Also, although I can’t make any promises, keep in mind all of the doctors and nurses who are working their hardest to try and get you feeling better. I wish you strength and all the best of luck in whatever you’re facing.
To view all the videos submitted by members of the YAC, visit our Instagram story highlights.