Youth in Hamilton will now see an improvement in mental health services with the launch of the St. Joseph’s Healthcare Hamilton’s Youth Wellness Centre. The Youth Wellness Centre, which officially opened on March 16, helps young people aged 17 to 25 with early intervention treatment as well as easing the transition from child mental health services to adult programs.
“As far as I know in Hamilton there’s never been a service geared towards young people in this age range and supporting them to move from the child and adolescence mental health and addiction services to the adult world,” said Lisa Jeffs, Manager of St. Joseph’s Healthcare Hamilton’s Youth Wellness Centre.
The centre will also provide assistance to youth who have never received mental health services but are in need of early intervention.
“If someone has some signs and symptoms of illness and they’re not really sure what’s going on and they haven’t accessed services before, we’ll help figure out what’s going on,” said Jeffs. “So find out what’s troubling them so we can help with an assessment, they can see a nurse, if they want to they can see a psychiatrist, [and] we have youth mentors on the team as well who can help with more informal peer support.”
The idea for the Youth Wellness Centre came out of research that was done in the Hamilton area.
“We actually went out and asked our community partners and young people and family members what was missing in the system, what the gaps were, before we built this service,” said Jeffs. “So this service is actually built on what the community, what Hamilton told us was missing.”
Through discussions with McMaster’s Student Wellness Centre, services at Redeemer University and Mohawk College, the MAD Student Society, and other community partners, it became clear that transition and early intervention services were needed.
The wellness centre is very accessible, as youth can self-refer for services rather than relying on formal medical referrals. Members of the community, such as a guidance counselors, parents, or friends, can also refer youth ages 17 to 25 to this service.
Another unique part of the centre is their focus on providing information and support to the families of youth. At the Youth Wellness Centre, family is defined as anyone who is a positive support for the person seeking the service. The Family Educator ensures that the family is well informed and understands the treatment that their family member is receiving.
Although some youth may require referrals to more formal mental health services, the centre will provide informal, peer support options.
“For some young people, they might not necessarily need a service in the adult mental health addictions side, so we’re also looking at partnering with some programs like the MAD student society to do workshops on self-care,” said Jeffs.
The Youth Wellness Centre has embraced the motto “reach out,” encouraging youth with mental illness to use this service. Accessing support early is important, as earlier identification and assessment leads to better outcomes for these youth.