RBC’s Investment in Mental Health Care is Helping Hamilton Youth, Like Riley

Riley* (who uses they/them pronouns) was referred to St. Joe’s Youth Wellness Centre (YWC) at age 17. At the time, Riley was having thoughts of suicide and receiving support through the child/adolescent mental health and addictions system.

But in Ontario, when young people turn 18, it’s time for them to transition into the adult system. While this may sound simple, for a teen, it means a lot of changes to navigate, including working with new healthcare professionals and engaging in different kinds of therapy programs.

For young people, these changes can be intimidating. They can also add to their emotional distress and cause them to abandon treatment. But that’s where Transition Coaches at the YWC, like Mackenzie Mawson (pictured above), come in to help. To assist Riley on their path towards recovery, Mackenzie connected them with new care providers in the adult system so that Riley could build trust with their new care team. The coach also advocated for the right kind of treatment Riley needed to meet their unique needs, and helped them receive a grant to achieve their recovery-related goals.

The grant helped Riley cover the costs of college application fees as well as furnishings for their first apartment. The team at the YWC also worked with Riley’s parents to help them build confidence that Riley could manage their own mental health care independently.

“With support from St. Joe’s, Riley’s transition into the adult mental health system was a smooth one. In fact, the experience empowered Riley to embrace independence and to develop new skills to thrive as a young adult,” Mackenzie says. “Riley’s positive outcome was made possible thanks to philanthropy, which continues to enable the YWC to break down the barriers to care that many youth in our community face when accessing mental health care.”

How RBC is Making a Difference

Over the last three years, RBC donated $300,000 to help youth in Hamilton, like Riley, gain access to mental health care in a safe, stigma-free space.

The gift was divided across two areas of need within the Hospital – $240,000 was used to help develop and support the Transitional Coach model at the YWC.  The remaining $60,000 of RBC’s donation is helping to fund the expansion and renewal of St. Joe’s Emergency Mental Health Service (EMHS) at the Hospital’s Charlton Campus.

This is the service that cares for people over the age of 17 who are in crisis, experiencing a mental health emergency, or an overdose. Right now, 25 per cent of the patients our EMHS sees are youth in crisis. After being discharged, many are referred to the appropriate inpatient or outpatient services at St. Joe’s, including programs available through the YWC.

The good news is that, by working together with generous donors, like RBC, St. Joe’s Foundation was able to raise more than $3.5 million to help revitalize the EMHS. This outpouring of support from our community was also key to lobbying the Ontario Government for the remaining funds to bring this project to life. In April 2022, St. Joe’s received an additional $5 million in funding from the Ministry of Health to complete the project, which is slated to break ground in 2023.

Once complete, the new space will double its footprint to expand its services, and will include bright and modern features that encourage recovery, including more windows to welcome natural light, nature-inspired finishes for a calming atmosphere, and dedicated spaces for families and loved ones to be involved in care plans.

We couldn’t be more grateful to all our donors and friends who have supported enhancements to mental health care at St. Joe’s. Thanks to you, youth in our community will have access to the care they need at each stage of their recovery.

*Out of respect for Riley’s privacy, their name has been changed for this story.