Toronto

CAMH to open 3 youth mental health walk-in clinics in Toronto

Toronto's Centre for Addiction and Mental Health is opening three mental health walk-in clinics for young people in the city.

A youth engagement facilitator with CAMH said the clinics could have helped her years ago

Toronto's Centre for Addiction and Mental Health is opening three walk-in clinics where young people can access mental health services. The clinics have been designed with the help of young people to offer them the services they need and want. (iStock)

Toronto's Centre for Addiction and Mental Health is opening three mental health walk-in clinics for young people in the city.

Olivia Heffernan, 26, youth engagement facilitator with CAMH, told CBC News that the walk-in clinics have been designed in part by young people to offer them the mental health services they need.

The clinics, aimed at people aged 11 to 25, provide access to brief solution-focused therapy, peer support, system navigation, access to Internet-based tools, and onsite access to psychiatric services. 

CAMH said the clinics are located at Yonge Street and Eglinton Avenue at Delisle Youth Services, near Danforth Avenue and Woodbine at a new 'What's up' walk-in at the South East Toronto Family Health Team, and at Markham and Ellesmere Roads at the 'What's up' walk-in at East Metro Youth Services in Scarborough. The Scarborough location is open while the other two will open in July.

"Young people will have immediate access to any mental health services they need," Heffernan said.

Heffernan said she helped design the new youth mental health clinics because she struggled with her own issues and she wants to ensure that other young people are able to get the help they need and want.

Young people themselves have played a major role in how this project was developed, which types of clinical services are offered, and how the research team will evaluate success. 

At 13, Heffernan struggled with depression. At 16, she started doing drugs and became "fairly addicted." When she went to university, she lost friends to suicide and drugs. She said she is doing better now and is using her "lived experience" to give feedback to CAMH reseachers.

But when she sought help for her problems years ago, she went to a school walk-in clinic, said she was suicidal and was asked to fill out a form. "It was actually that moment when I thought, something is really wrong with the system, that someone is coming in and asking, please help me, and you're just given the form."

Heffernan said services have improved for young people but there are still few places to go when they turn 18.

"Slowly our system is catching up to the fact that there is a huge gap in services. People aged 18 and one month don't necessarily feel like adults."

She said she is jealous that such services exist now for young people. "I could have been helped a lot faster and potentially a lot better if I had access to these."

Heffernan said people who go to the clinics should have immediate access to a therapist and the therapist will be able to connect them to other services.

"These clinics will be a one-stop shop, providing immediate access to evidence-based mental health care in the community," said Dr. Peter Szatmari, Chief of the Child and Youth Mental Health Collaborative at CAMH, Toronto Hospital for Sick Children, and the University of Toronto.

"By co-locating service providers from hospital, primary care and community agencies in a youth-friendly setting we can better address barriers that are most apparent for youth." 

CAMH estimates the prevalence of mental health and addiction disorders is as high as 20 per cent among young people, yet as few as one in six youth affected by mental health issues will access appropriate treatment. 


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