Headstrong: In partnership for youth mental health

From 2009-2017, the number of ER visits in Ontario for mental health issues increased by 47% and the largest increase was found for youth ages 10-21. The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated an already strained mental health care model in our community, and across Canada. The Toronto Hospital for Sick Children cited a 120% increase in visits to the ER for mental health as of May 2021.

Recognizing that mental health services in our community, particularly for youth, need greater investment, the Collingwood Youth Centre (CYC) wants to make mental health support available to young people in a way that prevents additional strain on an overburdened healthcare system. Mental health support has been out of reach for the majority of our youth due to long wait times, expensive fees, lack of comfort, cumbersome process, and more. The CYC wants to change that.

Through their new program Headstrong, the CYC aims to provide preventative care in the CYC building,, assisting as many young people as possible with direct access to mental health professionals so that they can gain the tools necessary to move forward with their lives in a healthy way.

“We should give students better outlets to express their emotions and conflicts freely so that they don’t resort to things such as self-harm, addictive substances, impulsive acts and reckless behavior to cope with their emotions.” – Michele Rich, Registered Psychotherapist and CYC advisor

In 2016, Hank & Marilyn Knowles approached the Foundation to set up the Henry J. & Marilyn Knowles Fund to support mental health initiatives, specifically targeted at youth. “When I visited the CYC, I was so inspired by the creative leadership and how engaged the youth are with the activities and resources available. It is clear these youth are positively impacted by the CYC’s programs and we are so happy to support them in their latest initiative Headstrong.”

The Knowles Fund is endowed so that the income from the Fund will support youth mental health initiatives for years to come. Marilyn Knowles was proud to present the CYC with a cheque for $22,000 this past spring to support the launch of the Headstrong program and to fund its operation for the first year. Based on the results of the pilot program, consideration will be given to ongoing funding.

“CGMH and the CGMH Foundation understand that community partnerships create better healthcare for all. It was such a joy to connect Marilyn and her family with Headstrong.” says CGMH Foundation President & CEO Jory Pritchard-Kerr, “The program aligns perfectly with the Knowles’ philanthropic goals and will help reduce emergency admissions of youth suffering from depression and anxiety.”

The team at Headstrong has nearly 3 decades of experience working in South Georgian Bay identifying the needs and issues affecting our youth. By partnering with professionals and volunteers alike, they aim to deliver positive solutions to improve the quality of life for those youth and help alleviate pressure on our healthcare system. If you would like to learn more information, head to collingwoodyouthcentre.ca.

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