The game was developed by SickKids Foundation with the help of an interdisciplinary team of experts from SickKids. It was launched May 1 at the start of the Foundation’s month-long Healthy & Happy campaign, aimed at raising awareness and educating about child and youth mental health. The campaign’s education initiatives also include a website, a special section in the Toronto Star May 2, mental health tip sheets, public events, an online chat with an expert, and social media outreach via Twitter and Facebook.
Miriam Kaufman, Division Head, Adolescent Medicine (left), and Kelly Warmington, Knowledge Translation and Exchange Specialist at the SickKids Learning Institute, were among those involved.
Q: Who else was involved in developing the game? KW: youandme was developed through true collaboration. Judy Noordermeer, Director of Communications at the Foundation, brought together experts in mental health, game development, information technology, communications and web design. Capitalizing on the unique expertise of Miriam Verburg, a specialist in mental health video game development at Bloom Digital Media, the team was able to build scenarios that we hope will resonate with players. Much of the behind-the-scenes work was about building partnerships, bringing people together, and leveraging expertise to achieve the best possible outcomes.
Q: Who are you trying to reach with the game? KW: youandme was created for parents and young people, but we know that mental health issues affect individuals across the lifespan. Some of the messages conveyed in the game are universal.
Q: What do you want people to learn about mental health from the game? MK: We want them to learn that mental illness is common in children and adolescents and that a tool like the game can help people figure out how to relate in ways that are supportive and help them grow.
KW: The game was developed to raise awareness and educate people about the sometimes uncomfortable first step of broaching the subject of mental health concerns with friends and family. We hope to make it easier to talk about mental illness by reducing the stigma surrounding it.
Q: What role does SickKids play in mental health? MK: There are many different ways that SickKids contributes to mental health. We are very aware that it is hard for young people to have a serious health issue and that whenever someone comes to SickKids, we have to pay attention to their mental health and try to help them cope with their condition in a way that helps them grow and develop as human beings. In addition, we see young people who come specifically because of mental illness. They may be cared for by a psychiatrist, psychologist, social worker, nurse practitioner, adolescent medicine doctor or others. We provide in-patient care for young people with psychiatric emergencies and with eating disorders, out-patient care for a variety of conditions including anxiety, and day treatment for substance abuse and eating disorders.
KW: It’s also important to remember that SickKids is one piece of the puzzle. Children’s mental health and wellbeing are complex issues and through collaboration and integration with other hospitals, community programs, the education system, and parents and families we aim to provide appropriate support and services to our patients and the community.
Q: Can we do things for children so they will grow up with good mental health? MK: Right from birth, parents are helping their kids be mentally healthy by loving them, talking with them, playing with them, meeting their needs. As they grow, parents help them learn to manage their own emotions rather than just always making things better for them. They encourage them to think for themselves but are there to support and comfort them as needed.
Q: Why do you view this initiative as knowledge translation? MK: Although there is much more to know about mental health and mental illness, a lot has been learned and we tried to translate some of what has been learned into a fun format.
KW: Evidence supports the early identification and treatment of mental health concerns in children and youth. When you take such a well-established knowledge base and align it with the province’s mental health and addiction strategy, add a digital game, and an internationally recognized paediatric institution and its foundation, you have KT.
The goal of the campaign is to raise awareness and educate the public in a novel and engaging way. I have no doubt that youandme will achieve that goal. Combining the current evidence base with a variety of different expertise and a well thought out communications strategies, and making it fun, that’s KT!
The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids).