Youth mental health at the forefront of countywide initiatives

January is Bell’s “Let’s Talk” month and Simcoe County has invested in youth-centered programs, like the “I Have Hope” campaign with Waypoint Centre for Mental Health Care. Ontario Works director Jamie Moran accompanied county Warden Gerry Marshall at the Nov. 28 launch, where $175, 000 over two years was pledged to youth mental health first aid training.

“The money will provide mental health first aid certification,” said Moran. “It’s a train the trainer concept and a training campaign for youth that will continue to grow because the more people that are reached by this training initiative, the more will go out and train. We hope that it will impact our community significantly and will provide youth with some very much needed support.”

According to statistics provided by the county, the numbers are startling. Seventy per cent of mental health problems have their onset during childhood or adolescence, while only one in five children who need mental health services receive the help they need. With suicide the second-leading cause of death for local youth, in 2015-16, the North Simcoe Muskoka Local Health Integration Network received more than 1,500 children and youth with mental health-related concerns at local emergency departments.

Moran oversees the social assistance and employment sector of Ontario Works, which provides social assistance benefits, employment training, addiction and mental health supports. They have partnered with the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) since 2009 to have addiction and mental health programming incorporated into their services.

The program is fully funded by the province with staff employed by CAMH working within each of the seven Ontario Works satellite offices.

“They work side-by-side with our frontline staff to provide addiction and mental health support to any clients who are seeking that type of support,” says Moran.

Mental health first aid training was recently added, through the CAMH colleagues, for all three divisions within social services: Housing, Children and Community Services, and Ontario Works departments.

“We feel strongly about providing our staff with the necessary tools to try to support their clients in whatever capacity they are coming in contact with them,” said Moran. “They are not counsellors, but they are navigators, and we want them to be able to refer the client to the supports in the community that are trained to manage that support effectively.”

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(Photo credit: Elijah Hiett)

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