Local network to host webinar on youth mental health, substance abuse

May 20 event is for parents and family members wanting to help youth cope 'in a COVID-19 world'

WELLINGTON COUNTY –  A local group will host a webinar next week to address the impact of COVID-19 on youth mental health and substance abuse in Wellington County and Guelph.

The webinar, hosted by the Integrated Youth Services Network (IYSN) Wellington/Guelph, will take place on May 20 at 7pm.

Officials say it is for parents and family members interested in learning more about helping youth cope “in a COVID-19 world,” with a focus on how to “turn despair into hope.”

“Youth are now facing a future filled with uncertainty,” IYSN officials state.

“With no date set for return to school and ongoing physical distancing, youth are experiencing feelings of loneliness and increased anxiety/depression.”

The May 20 webinar will feature:

  • Dr. Joanna Henderson, executive director of Youth Wellness Hubs Ontario and Director of the Margaret and Wallace McCain Centre for Child, Youth and Family Mental Health; and
  • Helen Fishburn, executive director of the Canadian Mental Health Association Waterloo Wellington,

“Youth, in particular, have been struggling with physical distancing from their friends, have missed out on key and meaningful milestones in their school year, and are trying to make decisions for next year at a time when it is almost impossible to predict what the future will look like,” says Helen Fishburn,

“As a community, we are stepping up to support our youth through the stress and uncertainty of this pandemic, both short term and long term, to increase their resilience and wellness.”

To register for the IYSN webinar visit https://bit.ly/35VXHp7.

Youth hubs

IYSN officials say that under the leadership of the Rotary Club of Guelph, “a network of community organizations have come together to build what is so urgently needed in the community: centralized access to youth services – a one-stop-shop experience.”

“Interconnected by technology, youth will be able to access the right services virtually, and eventually in each of the seven new sites throughout Wellington County and Guelph,” states the press release.

The seven sites include:

  • East Wellington Community Services, Erin;
  • Minto Mental Health, Palmerston;
  • Skyline Community Hub, Fergus;
  • University of Guelph;
  • YMCA/ YWCA of Guelph;
  • CMHA Waterloo Wellington; and
  • Shelldale Family Gateway.

Each site will offer a range of stepped-care services of varying levels of intensity that are co-designed with youth.

Physical activity, mental health, substance use, and peer supports will be core services at all IYSN sites.

“With community support, we will be able to give our youth access to immediate virtual care during a time where they have nowhere else to turn,” states the press release.

“We will be able to invest in the future of thousands of youth when they need it most. When we come together as a community, we can make a difference.”

The numbers

A recent Ipsos Public Affairs Annual Mental Health Index survey, commissioned by Children’s Mental Health Ontario and Addictions and Mental Health Ontario, found that two-thirds of Ontarians (67%) feel that the mental health impacts of COVID-19 are going to be serious and lasting.

Almost three quarters (74%) of respondents feel that Ontarians are experiencing increased mental health and addictions challenges as a result of COVID-19.

In addition, 76% believe the Ontario government should be putting the same focus on mental health as physical health during this time.

Prior to the pandemic, almost 50% of youth in Ontario were at moderate or serious risk of a mental health issue.

Since COVID-19, more than half (59%) of parents have reported negative behavioural changes in their children.