BONNYVILLE – To say that Bonnyville youth had a part to play in the creation and development of The Hive would be an understatement.
For the last two years, eight dedicated youth have participated in a Youth Advisory Group that has influenced everything from the name of the Lakeland youth hub to the programs the centre will offer and even The Hive’s new location on Main Street.
The Hive is one of 10 Youth Hubs in the province made possible by grant funding from the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) in Alberta.
The youth hub model is designed to coordinate “networks of community-based services and supports that are person-centred and built on individual strength, resilience and readiness,” according to CMHA’s website.
The aim of youth hubs is to minimize the service gaps between child and adult services by providing youth-oriented access to mental health and wellness resources, as early as possible.
“A driving factor behind how The Hive was developed was based off of input from youth stating that they don’t feel that there is a place where they can come together in the community to just be and socialize,” says Aimie Kathan, one of the Hive’s two youth coordinators.
“There are going to be a lot of programs that are offered here, that may already be in the community, but they will come and offer services here for youth, so they feel more comfortable accessing (those services).”
All programs offered by or through The Hive will be low- to no-barriers, explains Kathan. There will be no service refusal for youth, with the added intention of having no extended wait times for youth needing access to health and mental health services.
Services offered through The Hive will include access to counselling, a nurse practitioner, legal and other professional services.
“Research shows that youth aged 11 to 24 are among the most underserved population for mental health and addiction support in Alberta, which results in a greater need for available wellness resources,” according to CMHA.
An integrated care model is meant to improve services and reduce public health costs of untreated youth wellness concerns.
Ultimately, The Hive’s mission is to provide support for the six dimensions of wellness – occupational, physical, emotional, social, spiritual and intellectual.
“The goal is to provide a wide range of different types of programs for all youth who may be interested in different things” says Kathan.
Eventually, The Hive will begin hosting movie and video game nights, as well as wellness mentoring, programming for LGBTQ2+ youth, cooking classes and possibly language classes, she adds.
“If you need to come in and talk to a trusted adult – staff is here.”
On April 27, students involved in developing the youth hub and transforming it into The Hive had a chance to take a break and enjoy their efforts.
When the planning for the youth hub started two years ago, students and a steering committee, comprised of roughly 20 different community service and program providers, started from scratch.
“Basically, the only idea was that it is a place for youth,” said Kaylee Picray, a Grade 12 student and youth advisory member.
“As our group started getting together more and more, the idea of what we are now really came out. It probably took us about four weeks just to pick the name and the actual concept of what we wanted.”
Picray says one of the main ideas for the hub was to make it feel like a summer camp that took place all year round.
“Normally, a young person's point of view is not as valued,” Picray says, but developing The Hive was different.
“I feel like it is a very encouraging and uplifting thing because we are given a voice that we might not have somewhere else,” she adds.
The creation of The Hive embodied the values the hub was setting out to do – give youth opportunities to show up and thrive.
“We picked The Hive because it’s a place that everybody wants to be and come together, and there is that sense of community,” adds Zoe MacLellan, a Grade 11 student who is also a member of the advisory group.
For students not heavily engaged in sports, there is a lack of opportunities for them to express themselves and get involved in the community in a positive way, they say.
“The (youth coordinators and steering committee) are really focused on hearing our voice and our input and what we wanted,” says MacLellan.
Programs like “Adulting 101” will allow Lakeland youth to not only have fun together but learn, connect and have access to wider opportunities such as volunteering.
Filling a gap
But there is another layer that sets The Hive apart – comfortable access to health services.
MacLellan expresses that she has struggled with her own mental health and says that support resources are nearly non-existent for youth in the Lakeland until a situation reaches a crisis point.
Prevention is huge, and so is privacy, she says.
“A huge thing about wanting to have the mental health side was privacy, because a lot of kids don't want to get help,” acknowledges MacLellan. “They don't want to be seen going to a therapist because that means they're broken, or they have all these other problems.”
Picray adds, “But with The Hive, there is the privacy that you won't get anywhere else. Soon you can text yourself in (for appointments), you can email yourself in.”
While there is a greater emphasis on mental well-being overall, Picray and MacLellan say it is their goal to have a fully licensed therapist operating out of The Hive full-time.
Although, the soft opening of The Hive’s new facility won’t be until June 1, activities and events are already being planned.
Upcoming events that youth aged 14 to 21 can participate in include fun and free work-out classes at the Underground Barre, board game nights at Mythik Games and flow yoga.
The soft launch will include the opening of a youth coffee house, where kids can meet up, work on homework and hang out after school hours, adds Picray.