Digital Story Initiative: Child & Youth Mental Health

Stories matter in healthcare and they promote citizen engagement in health and care issues. Early this year, we embarked on a project to produce five digital stories with our Child & Youth Mental Health group. 

Digital storytelling through its use of photos, participant voices and music can meaningfully capture and share poignant personal stories. With a skilled facilitator, it’s a highly effective approach to share lived experience while also empowering storytellers and promoting and protecting their wellbeing. With the storyteller’s permission, these stories are then used to initiate conversations on issues that are of concern to the storyteller. 

Imagine Citizens Network (ICN) produced these stories with the support of Mike Lang of Mike Lang Stories.  Mike is a Certified Digital Storytelling Facilitator and has worked with over 800 patients, family members and healthcare providers to help them create short three to four minute digital stories of their experiences. Mike led an interactive workshop with ICN storytellers on how to view one’s life and healthcare experiences as a story with many lessons to share.  

We chose to focus on mental health because it’s been top-of-mind throughout the pandemic. We see a need for a citizen-led group to shine a spotlight on mental health issues. The stories, while about mental health, also tie into other topics key in our work, that of person-centred care and health system navigation. 

The five stories portray experiences interacting with an indifferent healthcare system, the struggle of stigma associated with asking for help, the experience of being a child interacting with adults in the system, and barriers to accessing treatment. 

ICN is currently exploring partnering with other organizations on the joint use of these stories. The specifics of how these stories will be used is at the discretion of the individual storytellers. In some cases, storytellers may be present as their stories are shared with others and be supported in engaging on the issues which have so deeply affected their lives.  

Possible uses we’re considering include: initiating community discussions; influencing healthcare providers; influencing clinical understanding, care provision processes or service planning; and ideally influencing change in the health system by asking “how could this have been prevented”. We will be evaluating the impact of these stories as we work with different audiences to learn how best to employ digital storytelling in different healthcare settings. 

February 2022

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Credit: Pexels, George Milton