Pilot project to provide youth in London better access to mental health, addiction services

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The proponents of a new pilot project designed to help youth in London better access mental health and addiction support are celebrating its official launch.

Cornerstone Counselling will be offered at the Youth Opportunities Unlimited office at 332 Richmond St., where officials with the London Health Sciences Centre (LHSC) unveiled details of the project on Wednesday.

It will provide services to young people who are at risk of falling through gaps in the mental health care system.

Individuals between the ages of 16 and 25 will be able to access a team of health professionals including a peer support worker, social worker, addiction counsellor and psychiatrist.

Scarlett Davidson, of the LHSC’s Youth Mental Health Advisory Council, said she needed mental health services during her first year of post secondary education. She says she became stuck between adult and adolescent services, and went to the hospital when she entered a crisis state.

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“The first emergency doctor that I spoke to basically said to me, you know, ‘you’re in university, you’re obviously a smart girl, why are you in this situation, you’re too smart to be thinking about these kinds of things and you know, planning suicide, like you know better than that,’ and that basically shot me down quite a bit,” said Davidson.

“I was putting in so much effort to get myself to this place for reaching out for help and then feeling very invalidated by someone who’s profession is to help people and feeling like my problems aren’t real and that I don’t deserve help, and you know that’s kind of the big problem for this age group.”

She says she determined to use her experience to help others.

“I’ve also realized that I need to take what I’ve went through and turn it into something positive because I don’t want there to be so many other youth who [find themselves] in the same situation that I was in, so I’m very passionate about wanting to change that and I feel like that’s why I need to keep persevering,” said Davidson.

The project will offer a drop-in kind of service, with brief solution-based counselling that puts youth in touch with resources available to them.

Dr. Javeed Sukhera, physician lead, LHSC Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, said in his talks with young people, he’s heard about the need for a place where kids can just drop in.

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“[A place] where there’s no exclusion criteria, they don’t have to worry about making their case to get help, but rather a place that’s open and welcoming for them that can help them out in the moment, but also help plug them in to the right place in the community to get the help that they need,” said Sukhera.

The program was made possible through the London Community Foundation, and is being delivered in partnership with the local chapter of the Canadian Mental Health Association, Addiction Services of Thames Valley and mindyourmind.

The timeline for the pilot project is open-ended, and officials have given no firm figures on the cost but note additional financial support will be needed to ensure it can continue.

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