Arts and Minds

Please note: Our Arts & Minds program is currently on hiatus. We are reviewing the program to better serves the needs of our youth.

Arts and Minds, our day program for youth with mental health issues, is a safe and welcoming place for kids to work towards healing and stability.

The innovative program uses art therapy, as well as other hands-on activities like cooking and gardening. Through these creative techniques, we are able to teach kids communication and social skills in a non-threatening way. Art encourages youth to regain the ability to express themselves and rebuild a sense of self-worth. They also volunteer in the community, which gives our youth the pride of making a contribution. Morning sessions include structured activities, while afternoons are spent counselling youth individually.

Youth come to our health clinic, where their overall health is assessed. About a third of the youth that we see at Covenant House suffer from mental health issues, such as post-traumatic stress disorder, depression and schizophrenia.

When kids meet with their youth workers, they work together on a plan that usually involves school or work. However, youth with mental health issues may be unable to succeed in a community setting like a school or workplace, so they attend Arts and Minds.

Who attends Arts and Minds

Most of the kids at Arts and Minds have spent time living on the street. Many have mental health issues that result from their experience at home or on the street. They have often been victimized by adult predators who seek out youth with mental health issues and developmental disabilities to exploit them. Some were kicked out by parents who lacked an understanding of their children’s emerging conditions. They are our most vulnerable kids and the hardest to reach.

We carefully manage the needs of individual kids while being mindful of the safety and security of the group. We learn each kid’s diagnoses, medications and side effects. We also get to know their needs, interests and strengths. We provide structured programming for the kids who can participate.

Learning social skills

Learning to get along with each other can sometimes be difficult for any group of young people. Our kids may be experiencing paranoia, severe depression, claustrophobia or schizophrenic episodes, so managing the dynamics of the group is challenging. Groups are kept small to ensure they are getting the necessary attention. Our staff is supportive, flexible and passionate about bringing out the best in our kids.

Kids in the program learn to be patient and compassionate towards the others in the group that may be dealing with very different challenges from their own. We guide our kids on appropriate behaviour so that they can live better in the community. We also give gentle guidance on hygiene, which kids often begin to neglect when mental health issues emerge. Many of the art projects and discussions are designed to help elicit positive memories, so kids can recapture a sense of themselves before their illness began.

The environment

Arts and Minds is a warm, inviting and creative space, with areas for music, reading, recreation, relaxing and art creation. We also have a newly renovated kitchen that is used for teaching cooking.

The art produced by the youth is treated with appreciation and respect. It is framed, displayed and celebrated. This is a powerful validation for kids who struggle to regain their abilities in other aspects of their life.

Many youth come to the program with the goal of stabilizing on their medication in order to move on to work or school. Other kids come to work on basic life skills before moving on to supportive housing.

It’s a safe place kids can come and be creative. This program gives them back some of their dignity that they lost on the street. I feel this program gives me a chance to make a real difference to these youth.”
– Carol, Arts and Minds Coordinator

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