Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)




Faculty of Science

First Advisor

Mark Pancer

Advisor Role

Thesis Supervisor


In this research project, I undertook a community-based needs and resource assessment on youth mental health within a western Newfoundland community to assist a mental health planning team, the Community Mental Health Initiative (CMHI). CMHI is a stakeholder-based committee dedicated to addressing mental health concerns for all citizens in a geographical area in western Newfoundland, encompassing the city of Corner Brook, the communities along the north and south shore of the Bay of Islands, and the community of Pasadena. The mandate of CMHI includes identifying mental health needs and promoting the general well being of all persons of all ages through the integration of services in a partnership of collaboration and cooperation. This needs and resource assessment was conducted with a subcommittee of CMHI called the Youth Mental Health Research Advisory Committee (YMHRAC) made up of youth, parents, youth service providers, an administrator, and myself, the researcher. This advisory committee worked collaboratively along every step of the research process, and all members provided various skills and experiences. The literature on youth mental health reveals a link between various risk factors (i.e., poverty, single parenthood, and physical and sexual abuse), risky youth behaviours (i.e., substance abuse, teenage parenthood, and youth crime), and the mental health status of youth. Protective factors on an individual, family, and community level positively affect the mental health status of youth, and these factors are discussed as well. Using local statistics where available, this report establishes that the area studied has 22% below national average income, with the highest unemployment statistics in Canada for both adults and youth (Statistics Canada, 1991), the fastest growing rate of single parenthood in the country (Statistics Canada, 1992), and high youth involvement in alcohol and other drugs (Alcohol and Drug Dependency Commission, 1991). These facts, combined with limited and overtaxed mental health services available in the area (Western Memorial Regional Hospital, 1995) provided the impetus for this study. After obtaining support from the local school boards, the YMHRAC conducted a youth mental health survey in all grade 11, 12 and 13 classes in all six high schools in the area, receiving a total of 888 completed surveys. The survey was created by our committee and utilized both structured questions using rating scales, as well as qualitative open-ended questions. As a second stage to this research process, eight interviews were conducted to enrich the survey information and to enable us to hear from youth who had left high school before graduation. Using a definition of good mental health that the research advisory committee created, the survey results indicated that 30% of youth in our area only experienced good mental health "some of the time or less". The most prevalent and also the most harmful problem behaviour experienced by youth in our community was "money problems”. The second and third most prevalent problems were a “lack of community and recreational activities” and “having nothing to do after school”. The second and third most prevalent problem behaviours were a “relationship problems with boy/girlfriends” and “family break-up”. Youth were asked how they might respond to stressful environments or events. The most frequent response was “feeling depressed”, the second most frequent response was “using drugs and alcohol”, and third was “experiencing school problems”. These findings were supported by similar themes within the youth interviews. When asked about mental health services and supports, the youth ranked individual counseling as the most important service to have available, followed by a crisis telephone line as second, and school counselors as the third most important mental health service or support. Similar sentiments were expressed within the youth interviews. The mental health service that youth were most aware of in our community was their school counselors, with over half of the youth stating that their school counselors were “helpful”, but almost 100 youth stated that they were either “not real helpful” or even “unhelpful” to them. Friends and family were the second and third mental health service/support that youth were aware of within our community. This was also echoed within the youth interviews. We have learned many things as a result of this year long process. First of all, the YMHRAC has formulated a unique and valuable framework for community research. Also, some support for a model relating risk factors, risks behaviours, protective factors, and youth mental health was found from the outcomes of this study. The connections between poverty, single parenthood, substance abuse, sexual behaviour, crime, and the support of family and friends, to mental health were found in this project, supporting earlier research. As well, the strong link between boredom and mental health was discovered, adding this as a strong risk factor for youth mental health problems. The outcomes of this research project also have consequences for the CMHI Committee, our community, and for people who work with youth everywhere. With almost one third of youth having positive mental health only “some of the time or less” and with limited and overtaxed mental health services available, a crisis has been identified in the Bay of Islands/Pasadena area. Another central finding from this study was that youth want and need to discuss issues that are stressful and damaging to them. This study indicates that when young people use drugs and alcohol, engage in risky sexual behaviours, experience school problems, and take part in other harmful acts, it is not just meaningless youth behaviour. Such risky behaviour is often purposeful and may be a result of not having adequate resources available to them. The results verify that youth want to be active and to have activities to be involved in, as well as be able to talk to people. And finally, the results of this study support moving beyond “at risk” youth to start addressing youth mental health at a higher level of analysis than the individual focus. The fact that youth reported money problems, the lack of community and recreational activities and having nothing to do after school as prevalent mental health problems for them, indicates that they need and want accessible programs to help occupy their time. Youth in this study stated that they are turning to drugs and alcohol and other harmful behaviours to help them deal with boredom and pressures. These findings have implications for youth workers, researchers, and mental health planners, by demonstrating the need to provide other more positive avenues for youth to receive help and support.

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