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Program intervenes early with mental-health challenges

  • May 6, 2022

A new early intervention mental health program aimed at decreasing the barriers youth face when trying to access mental health supports is launching in Simcoe County, north of Toronto.

In partnership with Catholic Family Services of Simcoe County and Waypoint Centre for Mental Health Care, the YMCA will provide the program for people aged 18-30 to give timely access to support networks, mental health services and mental wellness programming at no cost. The seven-week virtual program aims to address a gap found in mental-health supports when it comes to skill building and providing youth with effective strategies for emotional processing and regulation.

By focusing on early intervention as opposed to treatment, the program hopes to get ahead of mental-health challenges before they become more serious.

“This early intervention is so important,” said Jill Tettmann, CEO of YMCA of Simcoe/Muskoka. “The online program is about supporting teens and youth before mental-health challenges become entrenched.”

The Simcoe County program is based on the Vancouver YMCA’s Y Mind pilot program and is funded by a federal grant.

“If we can get in there before the challenges become entrenched and provide youth with the effective skills to support their mental wellness, it’s absolutely the most important thing we can do.”

The need for mental-health services for youth is greater due to the pandemic, said Tettmann. Anxiety and depression are on the rise among young people.

The education system continues to fall short on mental wellness supports, and Tettmann says the program aims to help fill in that gap.

“We talk a lot about physical health in school and but we’ve never had mental-health supports in our schools and it’s becoming more and more obvious,” said Tettmann. “We need our young people in our society to thrive. We need them to thrive so they can be supporting the economy when they grow up and be healthy and competent adults that contribute.”

The group sessions will teach participants how to improve their mental health using evidenced-based tools and strategies grounded in mindfulness and Acceptance & Commitment Therapy (ACT), which encourages people to embrace their thoughts and feelings rather than fighting or feeling guilty for them. Sessions will also include fun activities to demonstrate ACT and mindfulness strategies as well as take-home resources to help participants cope with stress and anxiety between weekly group sessions.

“Y Mind will be a safe and welcoming place for the youth in our communities to connect with others who have similar experiences and learn new ways to improve their mental health,” said Amanda Fellows, program manager of community development at Catholic Family Services of Simcoe County. “I’m grateful for this unique opportunity to bring greater support to youth and am looking forward to helping improve their holistic well-being.”

Y Mind will complement the YMCA’s current social services. The first Y Mind Youth program began May 3.

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