New services for kids with mental health issues

Access Open Minds is a research project aimed at transforming the way youth services are designed and delivered across Canada

Over three-quarters of mental health problems first appear in adolescence and young adulthood, yet only about one-quarter of kids receive the help they need, according to researchers connected with a new program aimed at providing mental health support.

While there is a lot of information about problems related to youth mental health in Canada, less research has been done to study what approaches and interventions best help young people in crisis. Enter Access Open Minds, a research project aimed at transforming the way youth mental health services are designed and delivered across Canada.

New sites from coast to coast offer a one-stop shop for youth aged 11 to 25 to get access to free help either through the public health system or the assistance of funding provided by non-profit organizations.

Through Access Open Minds, mental health specialists hope to provide youth with more individualized care as well as more timely access to services. There are 14 participating sites in six provinces and one territory.

Youth get an initial assessment within 72 hours, and access to specialized services within a month. To help youth learn about these services, the sites provide drop-in activities such as art or music programs, as well as social activities.

At the Access Open Minds site within the CLSC in Dorval-Lachine, for example, program manager Sophie Pouliot said there are activities for teens on Tuesdays and Thursdays such as art therapy or group counselling discussions. Youth are also offered advice on ways they can manage symptoms by improving sleep, and developing other healthy lifestyle habits known to improve mental health and overall well-being. While the programs are designed to support those struggling with mental health issues, Pouliot said all young people are welcome to participate.

The Dorval-Lachine Youth Zone is open Tuesdays and Thursdays from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. for teens aged 12-17, and Friday from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. for 18-25.

There is also a location at 7085 Hutchison St. in Parc-Ex open on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m.

For more information, visit accessopenminds.ca.