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Drop-in programs add to mental health services available through the WCHC

Lynda Kohler, program co-ordinator for Woolwich Community Health Centre, shares information on some of the drop-in programs available. More information can be found on their website. [Ali WIlson / The Observer]

Woolwich Community Health Centre is offering a variety of drop-in programs, recognizing that not everyone’s needs can be met with typical structured sessions for addressing mental health, for instance.

The move reflects a growing demand for counselling services.

“Many primary care organizations as well as community mental health organizations have seen an increase in the number of people trying to access services, so we are not alone in seeing an increase in the number of referrals for mental health counselling. One of the ways that we have tried to increase the availability of supports for our clients and for community residents is partnering with different organizations that provide services,” said Lynda Kohler, WCHC program co-ordinator, noting the addition of support workers from CMHA.

“One thing that we have been challenged with is people who are waiting on a waitlist either for a Canadian Mental Health or for our own internal counsellors, so we are offering a drop in program once a month for anybody that is waiting for counselling to come in.”

Every third Tuesday of the month from 10-11 a.m., the mental health resources and information session is offered with no registration required. The drop-in program will help you learn about helpful resources to support yourself, your family and friends.

Keehan Koorn, therapist with the Canadian Mental Health Association, one of the partnered organizations, will lead attendees through a range of topics such as types of mental health professionals, types of therapy and community supports.

“It’s not a set curriculum – she has a range of topics that she can discuss. So she does like to ask participants what they would like to learn about in the session, is there anything that they would like to know more about and she focuses on that,” she added.

Offered for youth specifically, Sid Bater, a youth therapist, will be facilitating what’s called the fireside hangout.

As living with anxiety and depression can be lonely and isolating, the fireside hangout is an informal, relaxing place to meet others. It provides an open and accepting environment to discover youths’ strengths, how to move forward in life, and most importantly show you that you’re not alone, he noted.

The program came to fruition after parents identified a void for a no-pressure support group for kids and teens struggling with anxiety and depression.

“Some, for example, don’t even get out of the house to go to school – they just can’t do that. So it was something where it would be safe enough that you could have get out to something or go to a group or something like that, but not something where it’s going to be a diehard therapeutic group where you’re going to be called on to give something. Anxiety obviously is going to hold you back from wanting to be there,” said Bater.

Providing connection is a driving force for the group he explains, anxiety and depression can make you feel very alone and isolated and while many people are affected, traditional strategies don’t always help. Instead, they hope to provide an environment to show people they are not alone, form a sense of connectivity and provide a platform to facilitate treatment.

“Anxiety is one of the largest issues that we have in North America. Anxiety and depression by far top the mental health charts, but anxiety is also one of the most treatable and that part doesn’t get out often because we put people into a structured program and that’s not going to do it for everyone,” Bater said. “The main thing I want is for people to know that there is a safe place, ‘I’m not going to be judged and I can be there I don’t have to say anything if I don’t want to.’”

“My hope is that people will feel safe enough there, feel that there is a place for them.”

The fireside hangout is a drop-in program with no registration required offered for youth ages 16 to 21 at WCHC in St. Jacobs. The upcoming sessions are March 22 and April 5 from 6-8 p.m.

Additionally, while not a replacement for programs, a platform that should be mentioned is Big White Wall (www.bigwhitewall.com). An online mental health and wellbeing service, it offers self-help programmes, creative outlets and a community to help with everyday stressors or major life events. Support is provided in a safe and anonymous environment available 24/7, 365.

A full list of WCHC programs, which include maximizing your physical and mental wellbeing when living with chronic pain, the mindful way through stress, anxiety and depression and compassionate listening among the many, are listed on the WCHC website.

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