Linking Youth to the Mental Health Care They Need

At a Critical Time, The Joyce Family Foundation Renews their Support of Youth Mental Health at St. Joe’s

Even pre-pandemic, mental health concerns among youth were on the rise. Now, in the midst of ongoing physical distancing measures, a return to online learning, restricted access to leisure activities and not being able to see friends and support networks in person, the mental health of our community’s youth is suffering.

It’s an issue that The Joyce Family Foundation has been helping to address for several years now. In 2017, a $1 million gift from the Joyce Family Foundation helped to open an expanded space called The Joyce Link inside St. Joseph’s Youth Wellness Centre (YWC). (Located in Hamilton’s downtown core, the YWC first opened in 2015, but by 2017, they were already seeing the demand for care double.) But the $1 million gift didn’t just provide additional square-footage to connect more youth in need with qualified mental health professionals, it also enabled St. Joe’s to hire their first Transition Youth Mentor—an individual dedicated to working with youth transitioning from the child to adult mental health sector.

Now, with a new $225,000 gift announced during Mental Health Week, The Joyce Family Foundation is reaffirming its commitment to helping youth to overcome the mental health or addiction related challenges they may be facing by providing funding for a Transition Youth Mentor to be added to the YWC staff complement for the next three years.

The Transition Youth Mentor is similar to a Peer Support Worker in that they are someone with lived mental health experience who can help youth to open up about their challenges and feel less judged and more understood. The mentor will have a full caseload to help approximately 55 – 75 youth each year by providing guidance to clients as they navigate the mental health care system and begin their personal recovery journey. The Transition Youth Mentor will work side by side with a Transition Coach in essence doubling our capacity to address the increase in demand for care.

“While roughly 70 percent of mental health concerns emerge during adolescence, its estimated that only 20 percent of youth will receive appropriate treatment,” explains Lisa Jeffs, Manager of St. Joseph’s Youth Wellness Centre. “We’re trying to change that statistic, by making mental health programs for youth more accessible and building our services based on feedback we receive from our clients. We’re so grateful to The Joyce Family Foundation for their understanding and belief in the difference it can make when youth are cared for by someone they can relate to. By funding the Transition Youth Mentor position, they will help countless youth in our community. This gift couldn’t come at a more important time.”

While The Joyce Family Foundation focuses on providing funding for bursaries at Canadian colleges and universities, Executive Director Maureen O’Neill says their giving to St. Joe’s is not unrelated to their guiding mission.

“The trustees of The Joyce Family Foundation applaud the work of St. Joseph’s Healthcare Hamilton’s Youth Wellness Centre. Mental health is vital to pursuing educational and life goals. For this reason, the Board is pleased to continue to provide funding that helps to link youth with the mental health care and support they need,” says  Ms. O’Neill.

During COVID-19, 95% of YWC services are being offered virtually via Zoom or by telephone. But the doors to the YWC also remain open to provide in-person support for at-risk youth who may not have access to technology or the tools to participate in virtual care. This ensures no one is left out as they seek care at the YWC.