Collingwood-area youth mental health supports, all in one place

Collingwood General and Marine Hospital in collaboration with the Rural Ontario Medical Program have updated their guide for youth mental health resources in South Georgian Bay, ‘My project could be used as a template for other communities,’ says researcher

A summer student project done through the Rural Ontario Medical Program (ROMP) is making it easier for Collingwood and area youth to find mental health supports.

This past week, Michelle Hunter, with ROMP along with summer student Angela Luan presented their South Georgian Bay Youth Mental Health Resource Guide at the Children’s Mental Health Ontario conference in Toronto.

Luan is in her third year of medical school at Queen’s University, and was working in a rotation in family medicine in Midland through ROMP, which she recently completed.

A pilot version of the resource was completed in the summer of 2017 and was published through the Collingwood General and Marine Hospital (CGMH) website, the ROMP website and the Collingwood Collegiate Institute website. It was updated by medical students each summer.

“They wanted to address the issue of increasing rates of youth mental health crises in the area,” Luan told CollingwoodToday. “They compiled this resource for youth to access which contained all of the relevant resources and organized them in a way that was accessible.”

Starting in 2021, Luan took up the task of updating the resource. She gathered feedback from local physicians, psychiatrists, parents of children with lived experience, the manager of mental health services at CGMH and other community stakeholders.

The resource includes phone numbers and information on crisis/helplines, non-urgent/direct care resources, online resources, community services. Newly added by Luan are culturally-specific services and LGBTQ2S+ services.

“I identified areas I thought could use improvement, and I pitched those ideas to Michelle and other staff who were helping out with the project,” said Luan. “It’s the same purpose. It can be difficult to access resources and overwhelming to figure out where to even start.”

“I wanted to make it more accessible to populations that are particularly vulnerable to mental health challenges,” she said.

In doing her research, Luan says she found there has been a shift in how mental health care is being delivered post-pandemic.

“It’s primarily virtual, which is interesting,” she said. “This made me realize things are changing really rapidly. Each year, there have been so many updates to make. It’s a growing field.”

The resource guide is now being distributed to community hubs such as elementary and high schools, community youth groups and hospitals. On Nov. 19, Hunter and Luan presented the work at the Children’s Mental Health Ontario conference.

“One of the focuses of this year’s conference was highlighting work on mental health care in rural communities,” said Luan. “There was a lot of interest. It was really encouraging to see how many found our resource useful.”

“My project could be used as a template for other communities,” she said.

The Rural Ontario Medical Program (ROMP), based in Collingwood, arranges core and elective medical rotations for medical students across Ontario. They specialize in offering learning and teaching opportunities and developing learning resources.

The South Georgian Bay Youth Mental Health Resource Guide is available here. For access to all the health-care resource guides put together by CGMH in collaboration with ROMP, including one for adult mental health resources, click here.

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