GUELPH – The Grove Guelph Wellington opened its fourth youth wellness hub on June 21 – this one on the University of Guelph campus, but it’s there to serve all youth in the city, not just university students.
It was a collaborative project between the Rotary Club of Guelph, the university and the Canadian Mental Health Association Waterloo Wellington branch (CMHA WW), and it follows the model of existing Grove hubs in Fergus, Erin and Palmerston.
Helen Fishburn, chief executive officer of CMHA WW, said the statistics about youth mental health and how youth have suffered through the pandemic are alarming, and the very reason these youth hubs are so necessary.
Demand for counselling services for youth and children has increased by 146 per cent; demand for child psychiatrists is up by 96%, and calls for family supports have increased by 34% since the pandemic began, Fishburn said.
She noted children aged 13 to 15 usually act out, “but we’ve seen more aggressive behaviour since the pandemic,” she said, naming cyber bullying and physical fights among the symptoms.
Those aged 16 to 24 tend to “act in” – that is, they internalize their struggles. And for this age group, usually ready to launch into their lives, the pandemic has snuffed out their opportunities and ability to move ahead.
“What we’re seeing with this age group is more self-harm,” Fishburn said. “They feel lost and disconnected.”
So having a youth wellness hub in the city and close to university students will be a great resource, and an easy way for youth to connect and access mental health supports.
“We should take a deep breath and celebrate that we are making progress,” Fishburn said.
Alison Burnett, director of student wellness services on campus, said the university is among the first to host a youth wellness hub.
She said she’s seeing more depression and anxiety among students and the Grove is a non-threatening, no-stigma environment where young people can get help if they need it or just hang out socially.
“And there’s such a need,” added Mayor Cam Guthrie. “The number one issue in the city is the mental health crisis. But we’re not done now just because the doors are open. We all need to think how we can help going forward.”
Cyndy Moffat Forsyth is the executive director of all The Grove hubs and they are already saving lives, she said.
She told of a young man who attend a Grove youth hub on a Thursday and was fine, but by Friday he was in crisis.
He called the Here 24/7 distress line, and because his history was on file at The Grove, and because he gave permission, the person on the end of the line was able to stabilize the young man over the weekend, and on Monday a mental health worker reached out to him.
“That is why you’re here,” she said to the crowd. “That is why we’re here together.”
In an interview after formal speeches, Forsyth Moffat said those kinds of stories happen often at all The Grove sites.
“We’ve averted hospital visits but we’ve also facilitated some,” she said. “And for those on a wait list for services, at least they are getting something at The Grove.”
There will be three more Grove sites in Guelph: at the Shelldale Centre, at the YMCA, and at the new building under construction on Woolwich Street in Guelph, expected to open in 2023.
For more information visit www.thegrovehubs.ca or call 1-833-434-7683.