Jan 14, 2011

YSB launches innovative mental health program for youth

Youth Mental Health Walk-In Clinic will provide immediate help, cut wait times for counselling

Ottawa, January 14, 2011—The Youth Services Bureau (YSB) today launched the latest addition to its mental health services, bringing to Ottawa an innovative program that will help young people when they need it the most.

The new YSB Youth Mental Health Walk-In Clinic is a first-of-its kind free, bilingual service in Ottawa. To begin with, it will be available to youth and parents one day per week, although YSB is seeking funds to expand the clinic’s hours.

YSB’s clinical mental health programs include a 24-hour crisis service to provide immediate help to youth and families facing an urgent crisis. But the agency also offers a number of long-term counseling services. Right now, youth and families may have to wait over three months to be assigned a counsellor to receive ongoing help to address a mood or anxiety disorder or other mental health issue.

In similar clinics in Toronto and Calgary, it was found that a single counselling session was sufficient to address the needs of between 40 and 50 percent of those on the waiting list. The impact after one session is significant, with youth and families feeling less worried, more knowledgeable about available resources, having more ideas about how to manage the problem, and parents feeling more confident about their own skills to help their children.

“We know that providing counselling support is often the ingredient that can help families avoid crises,” said Alex Munter, whose last day as YSB Executive Director is today. (He will become CEO of the Champlain Local Health Integration Network later this month). “This walk-in clinic will allow youth and families to see a counsellor right away, which in turn will shorten waits so those who need ongoing counselling can get it sooner.”

Thanks to the new clinic, young people aged 12 to 20 as well as parents can drop in to see a professionally trained counsellor and receive guidance about how to get longer-term help, if needed. This model has also been identified as a means to ease the complexity of the mental health system, address wait times, and reduce barriers associated with mental health.  Counselling will be available in English and French.

Plans for expansion

Funding permitting, YSB intends to expand the hours of the Youth Mental Health Walk-In Clinic. Currently, the clinic is funded by the redirection of existing funds from the Ontario Ministry of Children and Youth Services, a three-year $60,000 commitment from the Cowan Foundation and individual donors.

Walk-in is latest expansion of YSB’s clinical mental health programs

During the past several years, YSB has strengthened and expanded its clinical mental health programs. Notable successes have included:

  • The establishment of the new YSB youth mental health hub.
  • Teaming up with CHEO and The Royal to strengthen crisis response for youth and families.
  • The launch of a street health clinic at the agency’s Besserer Street drop-in which has received an innovation award as the first-of-its-kind in Ontario for combining primary health care, addictions and mental health services for youth.
  • Scoring 98% in the recent assessment of our services by Children’s Mental Health Ontario.
  • Making clinical mental health care available in YSB’s homeless shelters and youth justice programs.

Youth Mental Health Statistics

  • In Ontario, 1 in 5 youth suffers from a mental health disorder. Of those only 20% access the services they need. (Children’s Mental Health Ontario)
  • 70% of adults suffering from a mental health disorder experienced the onset in their childhood or teen years. (Mental Health Commission of Canada)
  • Canada’s youth suicide rate is the fourth highest among OECD countries. (OECD)

About the Youth Services Bureau of Ottawa

YSB is one of the most comprehensive youth social service agencies in Ottawa serving between 2,500 and 3,000 youth per month in the areas of mental health, safe and stable housing, youth employment, and youth justice.

YSB’s mental health services program is staffed by a multi-disciplinary team that includes social workers and youth workers, supported by psychologists and psychiatrists. YSB offers a range of mental health services, including a 24/7 Crisis Line backed up by a mobile crisis team, short-term and intensive counselling programs, a residential mental health crisis unit, and school-based programs.


For more information, please contact:
Eva Schacherl, Director of Communications
Youth Services Bureau of Ottawa