By Joanne McDonald
The Grimsby Benevolent Fund has launched the largest mental health project in the Town’s history to provide local youth with the care they need – right when they need it.
GBF has committed $100,000, the largest contribution in its history, to fund a new research project led by the West Niagara Mental Health Team at West Lincoln Memorial Hospital, to help healthcare providers support youth and young adults, 13-25 years, with mental health issues.
“When we began discussing this research project with West Niagara Mental Health and the Local Health Integration Network it fit so clearly with our core principles that we knew we found the best way to make a difference in our community,” GBF Executive Director Stacy Elia told a crowd gathered for the launch Thursday at the Grimsby Town Hall.
“Many of us in this room tonight know many youth in our community and surrounding areas that are facing mental health challenges in their lives,” Elia said. “This funding will equip professionals with the tools and resources they need to recognize and assist youth to lead healthier, happier lives.”
Anxiety and depression are two of the common challenges faced by youth and, left untreated, mental health problems starting in adolescence can create multiple problems into adult life.
Chris Conley, senior clinical specialist at Hamilton Health Sciences’ West Niagara Mental Health Team said there are effective treatments but often, young people coming into the system get moved around and precious time is wasted.
Conley, principal investigator for the project describes the approach as a paradigm shift in the intervention and treatment of mental health problems. Instead of doing handovers, “the first door can actually be a treatment door.”
While the goal enables the evidence-based treatment Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), the paradigm shift, Conley said, is in the approach. It uses an online platform to quickly put the tools to guide treatment not only in the hands of practitioners, but clients and their families, empowering patients to be involved in their own treatment.
Practitioners who already serve this population will have access to treatment approaches through software called WILLOW, developed by the Evidence-Based Practice Institute. WILLOW provides video instruction, handouts, and depression/anxiety measurement tools as well as self-management/self-treatment tools for those receiving treatment.
The GBF funding supports the development and evaluation of the project. Data will be collected over the course of the next year. This will ensure the project can continue to grow to suit the needs of the community.
There are currently 10 organizations participating in the project, including Niagara Region Public Health, Gillian’s Place, Grimsby Life Centre, Pathstones and multiple medical practices. Currently, training is complete and they are ready to begin implementing the program.
“I can’t say enough about GBF. The volunteers have made GBF what it is today. It has become such a large part of Grimsby,” said Grimsby Mayor Jeff Jordan.
“No person anywhere should live in the shadows or suffer alone because they can’t get to treatment,” Elia said. “There is nothing noble in suffering and there is nothing shameful or weak in asking for help.”