Anxiety is a real scourge and that of young people is worrying to say the least as the Covid-19 pandemic has exacerbated it for many. By letting young people work on their psychosocial skills, we as a society are already a winner. In addition, if we involve schools, parents and the health network in field research where all tours are allowed, we take great steps to repel the enemy.
In a first grade secondary in Saguenay, the French teacher traded grammar for a workshop on judging others this morning. Next time, his math teacher will lead a discussion about perfectionism. At a school in the Eastern Townships, it was the Ethics and Religious Culture teacher who volunteered to lead several workshops with youth on fear. For example, she will make connections between their discussions about depressive feelings, the impact of social media on their self-image, conflict management, etc.
By setting up HORS-PISTE in 2017, a program aimed at preventing anxiety disorders and other adjustment disorders in young people, the RBC Center for University Expertise in Mental Health Care wanted to tackle this major scourge.
Arriving at the RBC Center in 2018, Professor Julie Lane suggested drawing inspiration from the science of implementation to create the optimal conditions to advance the adoption, implementation, evaluation, sustainability and scaling up in different schools of this promising program. An extensive process has thus made it possible to tailor the program to the ministerial orientations, research findings on fear and the needs and realities of the communities.
The HORS-PISTE program was therefore created in collaboration with the people on the school grounds: the teaching staff, the psychologists, the psycho-educators and psycho-educators, the principals. The result is an undeniable success, both for young people and their parents, as well as for the school and health sector.
100 times working…
For the research team at the RBC center it was important from the outset to perform with young people as the needs were urgent and then adjust if necessary. “It didn’t take us three years to develop the program. Instead, we gradually started creating workshops with the schools for young people in the first year of high school. We tested, adapted, retested and at the same time developed the program for the sophomores to enable them to quickly use the material,” explains Julie Lane, Director of the RBC Centre.
This approach is appreciated by the partners in the field, as they are mainly used to applying programs that are imposed on them. Being able to share their knowledge and experience with young people in research is a formula made possible thanks to the collaboration and expertise of a large interfactual and interuniversity research team led by professors Julie Lane and Danyka Therriault.
We try to be agile, come back quickly with adjustments based on their feedback and ask them to retest. We accept that what we present to them may not be perfect, but they will be able to try.
Julie Lane, professor in the Department of Academic and Social Adjustment Studies at the Faculty of Education.
“We also listened to parents and young people. Then we revised and improved. We’re at version 5! says Danyka Therriault, professor in the Department of Psychoeducation of the Faculty of Education.
What exactly is HORS-PISTE?
The program has two components. First the panel reconnaissance of universal prevention focuses on all students to develop their emotional skills, their stress management, their way of dealing with conflicts with their friends, etc. “Once they participate in these workshops, some students remain anxious. We then have the shutter for them To sendwhich offers early intervention, in smaller groups, and group intervention with their parents,” added Professor Lane.
Before participating in the workshops, the students are invited to answer 190 questions that allow to evaluate anxiety symptoms, the judgment of others, the impact of anxiety on their lives, on perfectionism, on feelings of depression. The answers are confidential and allow the research team to assess various personal, family, school and social factors. At the end of the process, you can discover what the program is working on and identify those who could benefit from the Expedition component.
This is followed by thematic workshops led by teachers and activities for parents, who can then better interact with their children. The least we can say is that it benefits young people, as evidenced by the research team’s comments:
We are more open-minded and less likely to judge others… I talk more about my problems with my parents and teachers… I find the tools to better manage my stress very helpful… More lessons are needed like this on school!
Same story with parents: “My child has started discussing the “stressors” elements more openly and figuring out which ones are really stressful or just reinforced by anxiety. » « My child now has new tools, solutions in his backpack. »
Thank you for providing our teens with the space to understand stress and its effects, the means to reduce it and the resources available. Just knowing that others are going through the same thing can help them and spark discussion.
A bountiful and measurable harvest
The great thing about HORS-PISTE is that the effects can be measured with great reliability, as the program reaches all students. So there is no bias by will to participate or not.
Since 2018, the team has been able to collect a lot of data about the progress of students at participating schools. There is a significant decrease in symptoms associated with various anxiety disorders, including generalized anxiety, social anxiety disorder, panic disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder.
“We also see positive changes in fear of judgment from others, perfectionism, a reduction in the impact of fear in the lives of young people,” added Professor Therriault. †
Even if the fear persists at times, the young person manages to exert less influence on his activities. There is also an increase in young people’s sense of academic, emotional and social self-efficacy: they gain trust.
Danika Therriault, professor at the Department of Psychoeducation of the Faculty of Education.
In addition, by developing the basic psychosocial skills of young people, the program could have effects on other issues, including cyber addiction, drug use, eating disorders, etc. so much so that the research team plans to also add assessment questions to measure these topics.
All this without counting the distance traveled by the entourage of young people, since HORS-PISTE equips the entire network around them.
Adapt to different terrains
The flexibility of the program also makes it possible to take into account the specific realities of each school, each region, each community.
The director of the youth program of the CISSS de la Montérégie-Centre, Josée Rivard, knows something about it. The Department of Health and Social Services has commissioned and financially supported the establishment to orchestrate the deployment across Quebec and support the schools in this adventure. His team did so well that the project won the Public Administration Excellence Award in 2021!
“HORS-PISTE is a self-sufficient program, free, with a support team and an excellent scientific basis! summarizes Josée Rivard, who notes that the program also helps alleviate mental health waiting lists. “HORS-PISTE completes the offer and sometimes avoids the need to go to the health network. Young people and parents are looking for tools. They may never need help in the end, given the prevention activities that are being carried out in the program. †
Thousands of young people who better manage fear
Five years after its launch, the program has been implemented in 15 regions of Quebec and has already helped more than 25,000 young people in approximately 100 secondary schools. No wonder that one of the actions of the Quebec government’s 2022-2026 Interdepartmental Mental Health Plan is to “promote the deployment of the HORS-PISTE program.”
“From the outset, we aligned it perfectly with the MSSS orientations and the training program in Quebec schools,” explains Julie Lane. We have ensured that the teachers and the professionals of the health network identify with the material. My greatest source of pride is the enthusiasm generated by the program, an enthusiasm that is hard to follow. †
It is rare that the department positions itself so clearly on a particular program. We already had the ambition to expand it elsewhere in Canada, so this recognition pushes us to move forward.
Danyka Therriault, professor in the Department of Psychoeducation of the Faculty of Education.
Young people who are more open-minded, can better deal with their emotions and their stress, manage conflicts with their friends, talk about their problems with their parents or their teachers, these are very concrete results that are reflected around young people.
It is a plague of fear. If we can help even a few young people in a region to prevent them from facing major problems, I am very proud of that.
Josée Rivard, responsible for the national deployment of HORS-PISTE.
After a more than successful implementation in Quebec high schools, the program is now being offered to preschool and elementary school children. We also plan to do a big job of culturally securing the material based on the very different realities of Aboriginal communities, with the participation of band councils. Finally, the program is translated for Anglophone communities.
The research project of the HORS-PISTE program
The first versions of the HORS-PISTE program received funding from the CISSS de la Montérégie-Centre and the Integrated University Health and Social Services Network (RUISSS) at the University of Sherbrooke.
Since 2019, the program has been funded by the Public Health Agency of Canada’s Mental Health Promotion Innovation Fund, first for a first phase and now for phase 2 which will last until 2025. Thus, this fund has allocated a total of $1,818,512 to continue development. setting, adaptation, evaluation and translation of the program for secondary school students and for preschool and primary school students. This support also makes it possible to develop innovative tools, such as this virtual locker from HORS-PISTE, which brings together relevant tools and videos (produced by Estrie screenwriter-director Anh Ming Truong) to support young people.