COVID-19 has been hard. From the young to old, from “lockdowns” and public health measures like masking and vaccinations, the past 3 years has transformed our world.
The virus’ impact on the vulnerable and older population has rightly been the focus of our healthcare and public health interventions. We have saved hundreds of thousands of lives because of these actions.
And the impact on children and youth who’ve lost loved ones to COVID-19 or themselves been sick or faced prolonged “Long-Covid” symptoms, should not go overlooked.
I want to focus on our children and youth.
Youth are the future. Throughout history, great ideas and innovations have come from young people unshackled by the restraints of tradition. Willing to “think differently”. Like children and youth, these ideas need to be nurtured and protected from crushing forces like bureaucracy and convention.
Covid has hit children and youth hard. And thus it impacts our future far beyond any virus’ spread.
Having class behind a computer screen for weeks on end, coming-of-age graduation events cancelled, sporting gatherings wiped out. It’s been tough.
The greatest investment as a North Island community we can make is in our children and youth. Elders have so many lessons to share, and the more intergenerational and intercultural learning we can foster, the healthier we will all be.
Everyday in emerg and clinic I see the impact on our children and youth – rising anxiety and depression, substance use and especially ever-prevalent alcohol misuse. Social media is a tool that can be helpful, but it has become a drug for too many – with a dependency that predisposes to bullying and social isolation.
We all have a role to play to support our community, to foster meaning and purpose for our youth. On the North Island we are blessed with beautiful cultures, wild spaces and species that can support this.
My dream is as a community to build a non-profit rock-climbing/boulder/gym community space in Port Hardy with 24-7 access, where people of all ages – but especially youth – can exercise their minds and bodies in a pro-social and substance-free environment. Rock climbing has been an important part of my own physical and mental health, as well as spiritual growth. It’s also something that just about anyone can try. A ‘boulder gym’ is no higher than 10 feet and has padded floors, making it safer than conventional ‘rope’ climbing.
In preliminary discussions with leaders across our community, there is buy-in and commitment to making this happen. I am continually inspired by the business owners and community leaders in our north island communities.
We need to dream big to build spaces that are inclusive, pro-social and active. We owe it to our youth to give them the spaces to heal from the trauma that Covid has wrought. To truly build back better.
For ideas/topics you would like explored, please email suggestions to: alexnatarosMD@gmail.com or find me online Facebook/Twitter “Alex Nataros MD” Note this is Not for personal medical questions – for these you should present to clinic/emerg or call 8-11.
Dr. Alex Nataros is a new resident to Port Hardy and will be writing regularly for the North Island Gazette
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