CMHA Waterloo Wellington receives $1M to support youth mental health

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The Canadian Mental Health Association of Waterloo Wellington has received more than $1 million in funding from the provincial government and Wellington County to support youth mental health.

The funding will go toward strengthening the Integrated Youth Services Network (IYSN) and allow the network to expand its operating capabilities.

The IYSN is a collaborative project with the aim of providing youth aged 12 to 26 with the support they need. More than 30 different organizations are part of the network, which is aiming to expand to have seven sites across Wellington County, Erin, Palmerston, Fergus and Guelph.

"We were absolutely thrilled to receive new funding," said Helen Fishburn, CMHA Waterloo Wellington's chief executive. "We want to make it incredibly easy for youth to get what they need … and we know they've been really hard-hit through the pandemic."

The IYSN offers access to programs and services that provide guidance to youth, including education and career support, counselling and peer-to-peer programs.

Fishburn said the sites, dubbed youth wellness hubs, will offer "one-stop shopping" for young people to access resources and supports.

"Is going to be an opportunity for youth to come and engage with the system and get what they need so that they can thrive," she said.

As part of the funding, $650,000 was contributed by the provincial government and $420,000 was provided by Wellington County.

Organizers with CMHA Waterloo Wellington say the funding comes as the region is seeing an alarming rise in local youth mental health issues, including increased rates of self harm and a spike in overdose deaths.

SUPPORTING YOUTH MENTAL HEALTH AS ONLINE LEARNING IS EXTENDED

In the wake of the provincial announcement that in-class learning will not resume until September, Fishburn said it's important that children and families "find closure" on the tumultuous pandemic school year.

"We know that kids have been really hard hit through the pandemic," she said. "They're struggling with the isolation, there is a lot of anxiety and fear that kids are experiencing right now."

Fishburn said families and kids need supports now more than ever, and need easy access mental health resources.

"Even though kids aren’t going back to school … we really want to encourage kids and families to work with their teachers, to work with their school boards, to try to find some closure to this year, to bring some of those painful pieces that have been part of the virtual learning experience for some kids," she said.

She said that will help children look forward to a better summer and fall.

"We want to really encourage everyone to try to bring closure to this year's academic year and then look forward to September as a fresh start and a new chapter."

MENTAL HEALTH RESOURCES IN THE COMMUNITY

With files from CTV Kitchener's Jessica Smith.