Centre for kids’ mental health plans to open at Portage and Main

Artist's rendering of what KidThink would look like at Portage and Main.
Artist's rendering of what KidThink would look like at Portage and Main. KidThink/Supplied

A new centre aimed at helping kids with mental health issues could open next spring in the heart of Winnipeg.

KidThink is the brainchild of Carmyn Aleshka, founder of the Upside Down Tree, a non-profit that helps raise money for small charities.

READ MORE: World Suicide Prevention Day prompts conversation about death, mental health and stigmas

She wants to open a mental health treatment centre and outreach program at the Scotiabank Building at 200 Portage Ave.

“The fact that Winnipeg is in the middle of this country, and Portage and Main is the centre-point of our city, it’s basically putting a think-tank and a resource for kids’ mental illness at the centre of the country,” Aleshka explained.

“It’s about taking the stigma out of mental illness, especially for kids.”

Story continues below advertisement

RELATED: Canadian children have high rates of mental illness, poverty and mortality: National study

Aleshka believes that once KidThink launches, there will be an immediate decrease in wait-times for children requiring assistance for mental illnesses.

“Right now it’s six months just to maybe get in the door to have a first meeting,” Aleshka said.

“After that, there’s all the follow-up … Finding out what kind of specific resource they need, what kind of coaching the family might need. We’re trying to look at something that reduces these wait-times.”

Aleshka hopes to open the building in the spring and serve 200 kids in the first year, eventually raising that capacity to 1,200 annually.

READ MORE: N.B. college hands out mental health first aid kits to students

“The World Health Organization actually states that there is no health without mental health,” explained KidThink executive director Dr. Analyn Einarson.

“Not all people will experience mental illness but everyone will struggle or have a challenge with their mental well-being, just like we experience with our physical well-being from time to time.”

The Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention estimates that every day in Canada, ten people die by suicide and 200 more make a suicide attempt.

Story continues below advertisement

READ MORE: Where’s the village? Why parents should ask for more help raising kids

Experts also estimate that 70 per cent of mental health problems begin in childhood or adolescence, but only 20 per cent of children who need help actually receive it.

“A family approach is what we’re trying to offer at KidThink. It’s a way to diagnose kids much sooner, but then also provide the resources and coaching for the parents,” Aleshka said.

“Because at that age, 5-12, they can’t be an advocate for themselves. It really comes from the parents identifying something, and finding a resource that can pinpoint a solution.”