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February 6, 2023
4 mins read
Myles had a difficult time conforming to the demands of everyday life.
He had big dreams.
He wanted to make the world a better place, one with more empathy and compassion for young people who struggle with mental health.
He had a beautiful smile and a contagious sense of humour.
He also struggled.
“One thing somebody said to me when my son, Myles, passed was ‘we all thought he was doing so well,’” his mother Leslie Kulperger shares. “In reality, no one really knows what it was like to be him.”
Leslie Kulperger, Founder of Myles Ahead
In Canada, suicide is the second-leading cause of death among children and youth aged 10 to 25.
“Parents and caregivers with children who suffer with mental health challenges need access to appropriate supports and services," Leslie says. "Unfortunately, navigating the barrier-ladened system to find supports is incredibly challenging, leading to lengthy waitlists or worse, dead ends.”
In honour of her son's life, Leslie founded Myles Ahead, Advancing Child and Youth Mental Health (Myles Ahead) — a national charity dedicated to bridging gaps and scaling best evidence-informed practices to help ensure children, youth, and their families, have timely access to mental health services, with the ultimate goal of mitigating the risk of suicide for young people.
“Going to an emergency room and having to wait eight to 12 hours for a clinical psychiatrist to show up, because they’re on call, has the potential to exacerbate a child’s mental health,” she says. “After I lost my son, I wondered if he would be alive today if he could have walked down the street to a local youth hub, or if he had more timely access to appropriate early interventions. I decided to use my skills to help create a cohesive system of support so that other children and their families would not have to go through what we went through."
Based on the system and data research, Emergency Rooms (ERs) became a priority focus area, given the growing number of young people arriving in ERs in relation to mental health crises, and the increased risk of suicide associated with an adverse ER experience. In response to this need, Myles Ahead co-created the SafER Space initiative. SafER Space includes a customizable framework to inform advancement opportunities relating to the “people, process, and place” to reimagine the ER through a user-experience lens.
Myles Ahead is currently co-designing a new youth mental health hub framework called Myles to Mars, which will help to proliferate best evidence-informed practices in the creation of new youth hubs in underserved communities, and support the co-integration of those practices within existing youth hubs across Canada. Through the Energizing Life Community Fund, the grant will support the diverse lived-experience youth collaborative process established to co-design the Myles to Mars framework.
“When a young person is experiencing mental distress, they may feel like they have nowhere to turn, like they are alone, or worse. If I think about a future in which a cohesive system is truly supportive of child and youth mental health, I imagine that same young person walking to a local youth hub and feeling immediately like they belong and that they can get the help they need. If we don’t take the time to create an alternative future, suicide will remain the leading health related cause of death for young people aged 10-25. We just want to do what we can to help promote resiliency and life by creating a safer system with safer places for young people,” Leslie adds.
Recognizing the signs that someone might be at risk of suicide is not always obvious. Knowing what to look out for, what to say, and what to do can be lifesaving.
Myles Ahead offers the following tips:
Hope for Wellness
24/7 Support for Indigenous Peoples
Black Youth Helpline
Daily from 9am to 10pm
Kids Help Phone
What’s Up Virtual Counselling
Mon-Fri 9am to 7pm, Sat 10am - 4pm
Crisis Services Canada
416.929.6675 | mylesahead.ca
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