Angel Sakkua (she/they) works as the Clinical Counsellor at Directions Youth Services. They are a queer, racialized woman working on the traditional, ancestral, and stolen territories of the Xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam), Skwxwú7mesh Úxwumixw (Squamish), Sel̓íl̓witulh (Tsleil-Waututh), S’ólh Téméxw (Stó:lō), and Stz’uminus (sha-main-us) Nations as well as the Hul’qumi’num (hull-kuh-mee-num) Treaty Group.
Angel kindly gave us some of her time to answer some questions about youth mental health and the work she does.
What sorts of themes do you see showing up in your counselling work with youth?
Themes that typically show up in counselling are: trauma, depression, anxiety, financial concerns, housing concerns, anger, familiar issues, and regulating difficult emotions.
What kinds are impacting their mental health?
Discrimination, experiences of abuse, familial hardships, and climate catastrophe are all things I see negatively affecting the mental health of the youth I work with.
Youth are at a delicate time in their lives when they’re rediscovering who they are, what they want in life, and what goals they want to set for themselves. However, when facing hardships, discrimination, and an uncertain future with environmental destruction, our ability to align ourselves with how we want to be in the world is often impeded.
What supports do they need but aren’t sufficiently receiving?
Government supports are lacking. Directions Youth Services is one of two youth shelters in Vancouver. Further, there seems to be a lack of information dissemination for those who need it. Often, I speak with youth who are unaware of supports available to them. Social services programs are also insufficient. A huge player in youth homelessness is difficulties within the family system. Having family mediation options for youth facing hardships at home could repair strained relationships and provide families with coping and communication skills. More family mediation services across the Lower Mainland could help create healthier families that would support youth’s mental well-being.
What impact have you seen counselling have on youth?
I’ve seen youth form healthier relationships to themselves and others, understanding their circumstances better, gain knowledge about mental health challenges and successes, and feel more equipped to face day-to-day challenges.
Part of healthier relationships to themselves and others is being able to set boundaries. I have a client who would get very anxious at the thought of setting boundaries with people who can now effortlessly stand up for themselves and set necessary boundaries with family and friends. This person has grown in self-confidence and is better equipped to live a life they want to live instead of one in service to others at their own peril.
I am so proud of all the work my clients put into surviving and thriving, and seeing their strength, resilience, and tenacity inspires me to do better each day.
Our chat with Angel left us with three big takeaways:
- Counselling is an indispensable resource. We’re proud to offer the diverse catalog of counselling services that we do.
- Wraparound services are where it’s at – the people we work with are living intersectional lives. They’re facing multiple challenges and they need solutions and supports to match.
- Resource referral itself is a vital service. As Angel said, so many youth don’t even know what resources are available to them. The work we do goes beyond the programs we directly offer. When we connect clients with other organizations and programs, we’re making sure they have access to what they need.