N.B. mental health centre for youth in danger of closing
Gaining easy access to mental health counselling seems to be a growing problem for the number of young people who want it.
Lesley Smyth of the Atlantic Wellness Community Centre in Riverview, N.B. says there have been too many calls and not enough time since the centre first opened its doors two years ago.
“There’s only so many hours in a day and we’ve reached capacity,” says Smyth.
The centre is a registered charity that provides professional counselling to youth ages 12 to 21 who struggle with mental health issues.
About 400 youth have been treated at the centre for issues ranging from anxiety and depression to thoughts of suicide.
Calvin Martini says his daughter was suffering from clinical depression, but he didn’t realize it until a school guidance counsellor pointed it out.
“And then referred us here where Sarah was able to get that first initial assessment within a day,” says Martini.
Workers at the Atlantic Wellness Community Centre say a young person suffering from mental health issues could wait at least nine months to see someone within the public system – a timeframe parents say is far too long.
“Where would my daughter be?” asks Martini. “I hate to think about it. It’s the accessibility of this place that sets it apart from the rest of the system.”
But the centre is in jeopardy. Service is free and the centre depends on fundraising. Counsellors work for about $9 an hour and have had to extend hours in order to keep up with demand.
They want the government to step up its funding for mental health services in the province.
“We need to increase the manpower working in the mental health industry so these youth can access services in a timely fashion,” says Smyth.
The government says more than $14.6 million will be dedicated to youth mental health and addictions, with $7 million of that allotted to support community centres.
Martini is also calling on private companies to donate so people like his daughter can get the help they need.
“These kids need this service, need the support. Without it, they’re going to fall through the cracks.”
With files from CTV Atlantic's Sarah Plowman