Outloud North Bay is partnering with an organization known as "Lived Experience & Recovery Network" to kick-start a peer support training program for youth in Nipissing.

Seth Compton, Outloud’s executive director, and the team from LERN are getting ready to help youth facing mental health challenges.

"We've had some kids self-harming, attempted suicide,” explained Compton. “Those things for me as a parent are heartbreaking that the kids are experiencing these kind of feelings. It's been a rough two years with covid, isolation and online learning."

A $200,000 Ontario Trillium Foundation grant will allow LERN to use the 2SLGBTQ+ space to provide peer support training programs for youth aged 12-18 for the next three years. The program hopes to support about 120 youth.

“Growing up, I felt super alone and was basically the only out gay man in my high school for the four years I was there,” said LERN Board Chair Mark Caldwell. “So, I know what it's like to be bullied and not have someone to confide in."

The first cohort of 10 students will be give on July 26th and consist of 8 sessions. There will be more sessions to follow in the fall/winter. LERN certified trainers and peer support workers Kari Sterling and Erin Russell will lead the training.

"Being a peer supporter myself, there's nothing greater than the feel of being able to walk alongside somebody and help them along their journey whatever that means to them,” said Sterling.

It's hoped once the youth graduate from the training, it will empower them to become leaders and partner with other community agencies to offer peer support for other youth their age while at the same time complete an internship and get volunteer hours.

“Sometimes it is definitely hard to talk to an adult about stuff," explained Russell.

According to the mental health commission of Canada less than 20 per cent of youth receive appropriate help for mental illness and suicide is the second leading cause of death for Canadian youth aged 15-24.