For teenagers like Leo Nuhijaj, juggling responsibilities isn’t easy.
“I have basketball, then after basketball I have work, then after work I have to study for my exams and summatives. So it’s really stressful,” Nuhijaj, 16, said.
To help stressed out teens, the Youth Services Bureau (YSB) is launching a free mental health walk-in clinic — the first of its kind in Ottawa.
It currently takes about five months for someone with a mental health crisis to get a counsellor at YSB for long-term help.
“There’s a chunk of folks that we deal with in our programs now who need some in-depth counselling, some support, some coping mechanisms, some tools, but only need that single session to deal with their issues,” said executive director Alex Munter.
The drop-in program opens Thursday, Jan. 20 and will run every Thursday from noon to 8 p.m.
It’s open to youth 12-to-20-years-old and their parents.
“I think it’s better that they have someone they can confide in besides their parents, if they can’t talk to their parents,” said Iris Scott, mother of three.
By running the program once a week, the agency hopes to serve up to 1,200 youth and cut the waiting list of about 100 in half.
“That would be increased if we add more days,” said Mike Baine, chairperson for the board of directors.
Baine said there’s enough demand to have a drop-in service open seven days a week.
“One in five of our young people in the city of Ottawa have a mental health challenge. Only 20% of that group is getting any help right now,” said Baine.
And having a visible presence in a neighbourhood could help shatter the stigma associated with depression, suicide, and other problems.
“That sends a symbolic, if not a very strong message to the community that it’s OK to be sick with mental health issues. The same as it’s OK to be sick with diabetes,” Baine said.
And it could help the average strung-out teen handle stress a little better.
“You can’t really relieve it. You just gotta cope with it. You gotta deal with it,” said Nuhijaj.
The drop-in program operates out of the YSB’s mental health hub at 2301 Carling Ave. between Woodroffe Ave. and Wentworth Ave.