Navigating the mental health care system can be challenging. Young people transitioning from adolescent to adult mental health care, who have a history of mental health issues and repeated hospitalizations, or who are on the cusp of developing serious mental illnesses are particularly vulnerable. Adolescent and adult mental health programs have vast differences and youth face so many bumps and barriers in continuing their care as adults.
For many young adults, the barriers they face in their lives prevent them from being able to initiate access to a community mental health clinic walk in or a facility. As a result, many of these individuals fall through the cracks.
Over 50 percent of young people simply stop seeking treatment during this transition period, putting them at a significantly higher risk of developing more enduring mental health problems later in life.
Bridging the gap
In 2019, thanks to a generous donation of over $700,000 from RBC, our mental health team launched the Transitional Youth Program (TYP).
The service provides support to young people and their families as they find their way through a complex and often poorly coordinated mental health system, helping them transition to adult mental health supports and/or longer-term services when needed.
“TYP provides brief therapeutic support and case management to vulnerable young people, ages 16-29, and their families and helps them manage transitions throughout the system,” says Adina Hauser, clinical lead, TYP and Outpatient Adult Mental Health Services.
“Our clinical navigators really develop an understanding of the lives and experiences of the youth we serve. This is especially important given that our hospital’s catchment includes large immigrant populations facing socioeconomic and health inequity.”
Navigators also work closely with community agencies, service providers and family organizations to build and strengthen relationships to encourage successful connection to ongoing treatment.
A shadow pandemic
The COVID-19 pandemic continues to take a toll on the mental health and wellbeing of everyone. As Adina explains, this issue is particularly affecting our youth.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has created a shadow pandemic of mental health difficulties that is felt so profoundly by our young people, who are supposed to be entering a time in their lives full of hope and promise,” she says, “Services like TYP are designed to help our most vulnerable youth bridge the divides they face both in wellness and illness, so they don’t get lost at such a critical time in their lives. It’s more important than ever to ensure that our clients are able to reach the right supports, in the right place, at the right time.”
Making a real difference in the community
The program has already seen remarkable results.
“In only a year and a half, TYP has seen 330 referrals (compared to the program’s original estimate of 171 for year one), and currently has 80 percent of these clients fully engaged in the program,” says Adina. “We’ve also seen an 83% drop in visits to the emergency department following a referral to our program.”
For many, the program is a lifesaver.
As one client says, “Every time I get off the phone with my social worker I feel uplifted, better prepared and certainly more equipped to handle the upcoming weeks. For the first time in a long time I feel truly listened to and validated which makes a world of difference in my life. My social worker not only validates my feelings but provides me with numerous resources pertaining to issues I'm struggling with … I'm very grateful that this program exists because it has been and continues to be a beacon of hope in my life.”
And the parents of a 15-year old client share, “You made us feel that there is hope, that this current situation will not last forever and teenagers and families grow together. Your support was instrumental in helping us as parents support our teenaged son. We thank the sponsors of this program as it has contributed to the improved mental health of all members of our family.”
The Transitional Youth Program is contributing to the community in a way that is not currently met by existing programs in East Toronto, and to the best of our knowledge, is the first such mental health navigation program at a community hospital in Canada.
To learn more or to support the program, please contact @email.