Jul 31, 2020 | Mental Health, Leadership, Community and Partnerships, Faces of HDGH
YAC Group Shot
The last few months have been a testament to the fact that the world is ever changing in unexpected ways. But, it has also been a testament to the great importance of connection, conversation and community that is so crucial to us as human beings. Even before COVID-19 began to sweep across nations, Hôtel-Dieu Grace Healthcare (HDGH) recognized the importance of including youth in the conversation of healthcare, their healthcare and the future of our community’s healthcare. I am incredibly proud of this initiative which adds a tremendously important voice to the healthcare conversation – one that frankly is not as “loud” as it should be. You will read two such voices today as you hear from Kaitlyn and Kat – two remarkable young women who are the future of our community in so many ways. Courage, compassion, collaboration and resilience have already been asked for from these young people and thankfully they answered the call with oomph J Enjoy this months blog from our Youth Advisory Council (YAC) that speaks to an important aspect of our individual and collective humanity; the desire and the need for togetherness – of supporting each other – of being vulnerable and being human.
The Youth Advisory Council (YAC) was established in 2018 to provide all staff members of HDGH with feedback on hospital programs, services, new initiatives and community engagement from the perspective of youth of Windsor-Essex. Since its establishment, the YAC has grown to 14 dedicated members who all bring differing experiences, perspectives and knowledge to council discussions and initiatives.
YAC has been committed to volunteering within the community to build powerful relationships with other youth and organizations for youth. In addition to providing consistent feedback to all areas of HDGH and contributing to the social media channels, they are also currently in the process of beginning a new initiative, Wellness Through Grace. This initiative will allow students to have resources, knowledge and support to be able to better care for their own mental health, support their loved ones and guide others in the right direction when it comes to wellness.
Kaitlyn McCarthy and Katarina Kolobaric are the co-chairs of the YAC and have been members since its establishment in 2018. As co-chairs, Kaitlyn and Katarina share the role of oversight, guidance and organization for biweekly meetings, initiatives and community outreach. They feel very lucky to have the opportunity to work alongside the wonderful individuals that are their council members as they help build a better future for youth, by youth.
A Note from Katarina:
As an individual who is always going through life at full speed, the onset of COVID-19 was not an easy adjustment. Essentially everything that I had planned for the next six months, from concerts to conferences and all the extracurricular events in between, was cancelled. Life had come to an abrupt halt, making me skid from the speed I was going at and come to a complete stop.
In all honesty, the very beginning of the pandemic was the most difficult on my mental health. I didn’t really know what to do with myself or how to really comprehend the vast degree to which this virus was affecting the world. I felt very detached from everything and everyone and like I had lost my purpose. Without the hustle and bustle of in-person University, my lifeguarding job and my other various involvements, it came down to realizing I literally had no hobbies because I never had time for them. It took a little while, but I was finally able to start feeling like myself again. Though I intensely missed the ability to see my loved ones, to hug them and talk to them without it being through a computer screen, I made peace with what I had.
My mentality was always able to shift positively when I came back to the root of my gratitude - being so thankful for my health and the health of all those around me. Also, being thankful for technology and its ability to still give us some form of connection helped me get through the more extreme feelings of social isolation. What really helped me was establishing a routine. Making a list of a few things to do every day made me feel more productive and purposeful. Adding on other hobbies that I had dropped because of lack of personal time, like actually reading for pleasure, inspired me to seek other things that I could do, simply because they made me happy. Having hobbies and setting tasks for yourself is great, but doing nothing is fine too. I learned to be more kind and patient with myself when I just didn’t have the energy to do anything on certain days.
There is no right way to respond to a pandemic. It has been scary, frustrating and extremely taxing on everyone. Allow yourself to take all the time you need, give yourself credit for just getting out of bed. Appreciate the little things. If we can take away anything from this pandemic, it should be that we should always take the time to slow life down a bit. To not take for granted the things that we have and to spread more love and kindness to the people in our lives.
We will most likely never go back to the “normal” we had before. But, that doesn’t have to be a negative thing. We are most definitely capable of coming out of this stronger than ever - resilient and ready to take on the next challenge. Continue to become more in touch with yourselves and learn as much as you can. We are powerful beyond measure and will make it through this, together.
A Note from Kaitlyn:
In March 2020, I stood amongst 100 other nursing students waiting for a midterm to begin, shoulder to shoulder. I had just gotten home from Toronto where I shared a milkshake for dessert at a restaurant and watched a film at the theatre next to strangers. Days later, I said an indefinite good-bye to my closest loved ones and gathered with my family to watch the Prime Minister make his first address regarding COVID-19. In the beginning, it felt surreal, like normal would be back and I could pretend that nothing happened. But soon still hasn’t come.
In March I was prepared to care for my community in the midst of such uncertainty. As an aspiring nurse and a dedicated member of my community, I knew being on the frontlines was where I needed and wanted to be. I was hired in mid-March as a Patient Screener at Erie Shores Healthcare and then signed on to be part of their Migrant Worker COVID Outreach Assessment Team. While working, I finished up my semester of nursing practical experience and lectures, online.
Ever since the beginning, I have struggled immensely with things I never would have expected to struggle with. I miss not being able to hug my loved ones or be surrounded by people smiling, laughing and talking, in shopping malls or at school. I am the one to tell families that they can’t see their loved ones in the hospital and I am the one to give doctors and nurses their designated personal protective equipment for the day. I have held the hand of a young migrant worker through multiple layers of gloves as he was swabbed for COVID-19, pale with fear. I don’t handle all of it well, there are still many days I cry or shake with anger. However, there are also days that my cheeks hurt from smiling and my mind is at peace.
Driving past the supportive signs that line the roads on my way to work and seeing the posts on social media about community togetherness helps me get through the bad days. Having the time to connect with old friends over the phone helps me get through the bad days. Finally focusing on myself and doing things I enjoy like going for a walk, listening to old music, painting and being with those in my household helps me get through the bad days. However, what has helped me the most and what continues to help me the most is knowing that we are all in this together.
No matter what, we are all affected by COVID-19. It may be in different ways but, at the end of the day, we are all learning, we are all trying, we are all doing our best and we will recover from this, together. So, for those of you who are at a similar place as I am, my advice to you is to take each day one step at a time. Take this time to focus on yourself, reach out to others to encourage them and support your community. The world is not going to move on without you, we are the future of the world, we will move as it does. But, as you find yourself in the unknown; watch, learn and start to see how you can be the change as a generation of the future.
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