Adolescents and youth with mental illness are one of our most vulnerable patient populations in Scarborough, facing the greatest number of issues, barriers and challenges in accessing care. Add to that the fact that 1 in 5 young people in Canada will suffer from mental health concerns, and it’s clear that something needs to change.
“The mental health program here at SHN is the second largest in the GTA, with an extensive range of existing mental health services and treatments for all ages,” says Lydia Huber, manager of mental health at SHN. “However, we identified a crucial gap in care for young adults transitioning from their teen years into adulthood that we wanted to fill.”
Despite the need for timely intervention between the ages of 16-24 to achieve optimal health and decrease emergency room visits, most services aimed at children and adolescents typically end at age 18 while the adult mental health system is not yet designed to meet the unique needs of this population.
Thanks to the support and generosity of our donors, SHN has created a program that is the first of its’ kind to offer specialized transitional mental health services and break the barriers for mental health care right here in Scarborough. We are tremendously grateful to Mr. Geroge Cope and Mrs. Tami Cope, Mr. Brian Neysmith and Mrs. Carolyn Neysmith, Mr. John D. Walters, Bell Canada, and the RBC Foundation who made this program a reality.
What is the LINK Program?
The Transitional Aged Youth Pilot Program, nicknamed LINK, bridges the gap young adults face as they transition from youth mental health services into adulthood. Launched in May 2019, the LINK program has already seen a number of successes, with the staff helping patients secure jobs, get into post-secondary education, and help them build self-worth and self-esteem as they navigate the difficult time between adolescence and adulthood.
“This program is designed to fill a huge gap in mental health service, with studies noting that the transition out of adolescent services to adult services results in our patients falling through the cracks,” Lydia tells us.
“The Scarborough community is one of the most underserved in the GTA, and we have a population of youth with severe mental illness that before we couldn’t properly serve.”
The LINK program creates a network of supports including the existing Shoniker Clinic at Centenary hospital, specialized psychiatrists and youth workers, and other community services in Scarborough.
“We’re like the landing pad for these young people,” says Andrea, a child and youth counsellor with the program. “They can take off and come back as often as they want. We’re the anchor they can always come back to, to help them navigate the system because it can be very challenging and complicated.”
“The accessibility and barrier-free support is really what sets us apart,” Natasha, also a child and youth counsellor at the clinic, tells us. “We’re supporting these young adults in an age-sensitive manner, including being reachable by text message or other technology.”
“The impact this program will have on Scarborough as a whole is really positive,” Lydia says. “Because when our young people get the mental health care and support they need when they need it, they become thriving adults and will contribute to building a healthier Scarborough.”
We are tremendously grateful to our donors who made the LINK program a reality. Because of you, the ground-breaking LINK program at SHN is raising the bar for mental health care right in here in our community.
To learn more, visit www.SHN.ca/mental-health.