Monique Sekhon is studying Population & Quantitative Health Sciences

Monique Sekhon is pursuing her undergraduate studies in Population & Quantitative Health Sciences at Simon Fraser University. As a Health Sciences student, Monique has gained knowledge about the various social determinants and intersecting factors that form health, and has developed skills to address public health, epidemiology, and health promotion needs in various populations.  Although all aspects of health and wellness are of high importance and interest, Monique has always been passionate about mental health and resilience. With the development of technology and the current initiatives focused on breaking down stigma for mental health concerns, Monique is motivated to build resilience and mindfulness into every aspect of the life-course. 

What made you want to create Care-2-Share?

In Vancouver we have a really decentralised system for healthcare and as much as that can be a good thing because we get to focus on individual area needs better, we have no way of giving everyone a list of all the resources available. For example, Vancouver Island Health Authority focuses on what is happening on Vancouver Island, the Vancouver Coastal Health focuses on homelessness and addictions because they have the downtown east side and Fraser Health focuses on multiculturalism because they have such a diverse population. This is probably the biggest problem, the marketing of resources so that people know what they need. So instead of polluting that market with services I would rather be filling the gaps and be a link for all of those services to get to the people they need to. That’s why I was passionate about Care-2-Share in the first place: being a student and knowing so many people who are around my age group and have been struggling with anxiety and depression and various other issues for years now and just feeling like they’re in the dark because they don’t know what’s out there. I can visibly see their relief that mental health is something that’s ok to talk about, that it’s okay to look for services that might help them. I think that mental health is more than just ‘I don’t feel great right now’, it affects every single part of your life, it affects your physical health, it affects your work or school, it affects your family, it affects everything. If people are happier and healthier in general, then we’re going to have a better, more prosperous population. 

Tell us about your activities since the Youth Innovation Summit

The Summit was in March of this year, since then I was in school during which I developed a bit of an interest and passion in regards to the current opioid crisis that’s happening in all of Canada but is hitting British Columbia pretty hard. I had the privilege of applying and being selected for a program at Simon Fraser University called Change Lab, which is run by Shawn Smith out of Radius SFU which is a social innovation incubator and a co-working space in downtown Vancouver. Health Change Lab selects around 20 interdisciplinary students across the entire university to work on specific projects related to social innovation and social change from a health perspective. The program is focused on social enterprise so we got to do a lot of root cause analyses and worked with Daniela Papi-Thorton who is faculty at Oxford University and also an alumnus - we worked with her Impact Gap Canvas to do an investigation into various issues that are mainly affecting the city of Surrey and focused on food security. While this isn’t necessarily directly related to Care-2-Share but I was learning the skills and specific requirements that I needed to work on it. Since I’ve been in Health Change Lab I have learned so much more about the process, like how to prototype properly, how to do a really good competitor review and I’ve also learned how to check my assumptions with users. This involves going out to the university because that’s where a lot of the young people who are dealing with mental health are and asking them ‘what can be improved about your mental health and what sorts of things would you use?’ because a lot of the time people don’t want to go to a counselling office or the wait is too long. Seeing as those were the issues that came up, I asked if they would want to use an app and they said ‘yes, totally’. 

I’m also planning on doing my honours which will involve research surrounding people who have mental health issues and also use substances, so complex concurrent disorders with a focus on youth and what their trajectory is leading to an emergency department and what happens after. Why they would feel the need to go to emergency, what’s bringing them to that point, how are they being taken care of there and then what’s happening after. I think research is going to be really important for me to help define Care-2-Share a bit more. 

From the Summit until now, what have been the highlights of your experience?

Mainly it’s that I didn’t know about social enterprise and now I’m sharing this knowledge with other people, which I think is the biggest takeaway. It’s becoming a movement and I know social enterprise is big in the UK but it’s not as prevalent here. I think we can bring it to British Columbia and Canada in a big way.

Interviewers: ACSE team

Canada, 2017