The isolation and anxiety caused by COVID-19 can impact a loved one living with mental illness, and in turn impact family members who are now together more often, making these times even more challenging for all family members. 

The youth who attend BCSS’ Teens in Control drop-in group shared some of the challenges they have experienced during this time: 

  1. Not being able to distance themselves from problems at home by taking a break, seeing friends, attending counselling sessions, or participating in other recreation programs for youth.
  2. Experiencing worsening mental health for everyone in the household, particularly the family member with a diagnosis of mental illness.
  3. Feeling embarrassed, angry, and helpless about their parents’ inability to participate in regular communications and activities. 
  4. Feeling socially isolated and alone with more difficulties concentrating and sleeping, and experiencing changes in moods.
  5. Witnessing their family member’s changes in moods, sleep, and behaviors. 

Sometimes youth feel they can’t talk about what is happening at home due to the stigma and shame that is still associated with mental illness. They might feel like they need to hide the challenges they are facing from everyone. Many youth also become caregivers, taking care of parents or other family members. They may feel responsible for their family member – but they’re not.  

The Teens in Control program provides education and support for youth ages 12 to 18 who have a family member with mental illness. Youth learn more about mental illness, build healthy coping skills, and are able to talk about their feelings and experiences with peers and facilitators who understand what they are going through. During this time, BCSS has begun offering Teens in Control workshops and new drop-in groups online so youth can continue to connect with this needed support. By staying connected and talking about these challenges, youth feel less alone. Especially during a time when they may be cut off from other social support. 

“I had a place to talk about my feelings, about what I was experiencing, and how I was handling it, and I got to spend time virtually with people my own age. When I talked specifically about my own experiences, I was able to get personal advice and support too.” 

Teens in Control participant

“The questions and concerns that initially brought youth to Teens in Control may have changed due to the COVID-19 epidemic. When you validate their feelings first, then you can give them realistic information after and it’s absorbed better. Meeting the youth where they are and respecting their new feelings and confusion allows them to continue to feel safe.”  

Shelley Jensen, Teens in Control Facilitator

BC Schizophrenia Society will be offering more online Teens in Control workshops and drop-in groups for youth across BC this summer and fall. Family members or professionals can refer youth to the groups, or youth 14+ can register themselves. For more information about or to register, please call or text: 778-903-2752 or email: kidsincontrol@bcss.org.