Throughout this pandemic, the need for mental health support had intensified for the youth we serve. Just months before COVID-19 safety protocols and lockdowns came to Canada, we began to introduce a part-time mental health support program at YWS. These supports were available upon request or referral for both current and former residents and took place in our counselling office at the shelter – a familiar and safe environment for those in need. The surge in mental health needs due to Covid-19 resulted in more complex circumstances, requiring increased one-on-one support to help youth overcome a variety of barriers. In 2021, YWS was able to launch a full-time Mental Health program on-site to meet the needs of our resident youth.
We work to deliver mental health services to address various needs: youth are provided with individual psychotherapy, diagnostic and psychosocial assessments, support for ODSP applications, and connecting youth with external resources (I.e. Development Services Ontario, medical services, LGBTQ+ resources etc.). These services also give our youth the confidence to set new goals, the courage to go after their dreams, and the peace of mind and inner strength that allow for self-acceptance, self-expression, and an understanding of their own emotions. Currently, we support our youth through a variety of ways, such as in-person counselling, access to virtual meetings, and support through text messaging. Our Mental Health program provides clinical oversight to our case management team while managing services between clients, outside agencies, and other mental health professionals. This program was developed to create a structural framework to establish a pathway of care for youth in crisis and for youth needing ongoing therapeutic support. We will continue to provide mental health support to current residents, and former YWS youth as they strive to reach their individual potentials.
- Approximately 49% of youth struggling with homelessness struggle with their mental health
- Research shows that young people with disabilities are overrepresented in shelters.
- Over 40% of homeless youth experience extensive trauma prior to becoming homeless.
- Once homeless, youth are at higher risk of targeted violence, incarceration, mental health concerns, substance abuse, suicide, and chronic homelessness.
A variety of supports are offered to YWS youth, including remote, in-person, and text sessions
Since mental health supports have become available
- 96% of residents who are referred for mental health services continue beyond three sessions
- Youth who participate with the program:
• voluntarily return for treatment
• are able to be housed as a result of new coping strategies to assist with their mental health challenges
• continue to ask for services after being placed in permanent housing
- 72% of residents engaged in therapy while residing at the shelter have maintained sessions once housed
“The psychologists from YWS have helped me a lot with getting over my trauma and my insecurities issues. Before I came to YWS I was very shy and insecure with myself and I had the habit of dismissing my emotions or running away from my problems. Where I’m from there’s a huge stigma to mental issues. They don’t understand that it can be cured too and that the brain is an organ like any other organ in our body, and it needs to be kept stable, just like how people check their lungs regularly, etc. Before talking to Brandy I didn’t understand what I was feeling or why I was feeling it and I felt embarrassed about it! After regular meetings with Brandy I got better and better and now I understand what my problem is and I’m able to work on it. I became a lot more confident than I was before and now I’m able to cope with my anxiety and even though I still have it… it’s not as bad as before. I hope this program continues and helps more and more youths because every youth in the shelter needs it… we are all damaged people who look for a place to be given the opportunity to heal …”