Drum Stalk for Youth Mental Health

I feel so blessed that I had the opportunity to take a group of youth on a drum stock.

My name is Jamie black. I am a Behaviour Interventionist, a Consultant, an Artist, Musician, and the Founder of Wild Craft Play School. It’s my mission to build regenerate resilience in youth the way nature intended. It was an honour and a privilege to take this group of youth on their very first drum stalk. A group of youth that some might consider being vulnerable, and deserving of time spent supporting their mental health.

I’m sharing this because I’m very concerned about the mental health of youth. I have always been. I’ve been working with youth my whole life. In these times, I just am wanting to spend more of my effort and my time and my contribution to the community, to support the mental health of youth.


I realized a few things in this journey. I’ve been working with these youth for over a year now, and in particular, through this rite of passage in the last couple of months. When conversations came up from those youth, saying that they don’t have somebody in their life that will just listen to them. I have to say, I wasn’t surprised to hear them say that.


I remember the days when I felt that way when I was a teenager, and I felt like there wasn’t somebody in my life that I felt safe enough, to share, and to really, truly share and be heard.


This brings me to this place of what can I do to support more adults in the world to learn how to be an anchor for youth.
I learned about an anchor, what it means to be an anchor. About seven years ago, I did a vision quest. I was invited to ask somebody older than me to be my anchor. The way that I described it to the youth is an anchor is somebody who, when you’re this boat out in the sea, and the sea is turbulent, or you know the weather is causing hard times, that when we throw our anchor out, it will hook into the ground and hold a steady. That anchor is somebody who will show up in our lives and will listen when we need support.


I’ve taken courses in communications through Excellence Seminars International and other courses in the past about specifically about different listening styles. What I’ve come to understand in my walk of life, what I need as an adult, when somebody is going to listen, there are several things that I need from that person. And I know that youth have the same need.


When we share what we need we want to share from the heart. We want to contribute to the conversation and feel validated and heard. And when somebody is listening, we want them to listen from the heart to be able to hear what we have to say without judgment and come from a place of empathy and maybe ask questions, but not just listen and not judge not tell us what to do. Tell us what to say. Right? Make recommendations, tell us everything’s okay or stop crying or any of those things that we know about in our lives.


I feel like something is percolating here that I wish to support adults who work with youth in ways of being an anchor. So for me, the way that I can be a good anchor to somebody else is if I’m anchored. If I have a community, if I feel supported, if I feel grounded when I’m not supported and not grounded, and a bit all over the place, and things are too stressful, I cannot be an anchor. For somebody else, I just can’t, maybe you can, but I can’t. So this is why I do work with youth. I work with adults, parents, teachers, care providers, program leaders, to help become that anchor for the youth. So that was one big thing I got out of this, this experience.


The other one has to do with how to hold a talking circle. Talking circles are the traditional practice of Indigenous communities around the world, and other communities as well. And there’s a practice that I truly appreciate. I learned it during my Masters. And it’s called the way of counsel. That follows a few simple principles, to listen from the heart.


When you listen from your heart, you’re not stuck in your mind thinking about what you’re going to say next or wanting to comment on what that person is saying, or judging them.


We speak from the heart and permit ourselves to fully speak the truth of what it is that we want to say. We stay light-hearted because a council circle Yes, it is a place of counsel. But it’s not a counseling session with a counselor, one-on-one, there’s a whole group of people that not only want to hear you and hold you, but they also want to be heard too. So we need to keep it light-hearted and get to the heart of the matter. So when we get to the heart of the matter, we stop sharing the whole big long story or how we got there.


And the last is confidentiality, that what is said in the circle stays in the circle and isn’t meant to be brought up elsewhere. It’s a really simple concept. And powerful when you have a talking stick again, that person that’s holding that talking stick is the only one who’s talking, and everybody else is not distracted or talking to somebody else. They’re listening.
This is potent. I use it all the time in my programming with youth, especially when something’s gone on, especially when I have maybe two youth that are not getting along or they’re having a hard time or maybe one person has just had something hard happen at home and it’s just not coping well at the moment and everybody else is willing to hold space for them.

We just sit down and we have a way of counsel. These practices, in my opinion, are things that we can integrate into any program any class,we just need to set up the parameters and set that safety net up so that people feel like they can show up into that space and truly be heard and are willing to be accountable for the responsibility of holding space for others.
Could you imagine if when you were 10, at 1215 you were taught how to sit and listen well to others? I work with youth with varying needs. So I do understand that some youth just can’t sit still. You put something in their hands so they have something to fidget with because we want to be heard and we want to listen. So I’m hoping that this met you in a good place and trusting that you are doing well.


I invite you to reach out as I’m making myself available to more and more people right now to support this kind of work. My name is Jamie black. I can be reached at jamie@wildcraftplay.com. And feel free to have a look at any of the information and posts that are going up on social media wildcraft play. And I said much love and gratitude to the Comox First Nation for this beautiful territory that I get to live, work and breathe on.


Take care of yourself.


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