Youth Mental Health Resources

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Quick Summary: In this article, we will highlight important resources in the Greater Toronto Area that are free for youth patients. They are separated into 3 categories (crises, drop-in, and long term programs) depending on the situation that you are managing.


According to the Mental Health Commission of Canada, approximately 20% of Canadians will develop a mental illness by the age of 25, while fewer than 20% of those individuals will receive appropriate treatment. It is crucial that we are able to intervene early and connect youth with mental health support in a timely manner.

One of the significant barriers to accessing treatment is the cost of services and the inability of youth or families to afford care. We expect that you frequently encounter this challenge of accommodating youth patients that are unable to pay for private treatment. Meanwhile, you hope for them to receive the care they need without the financial burden it may carry. 

1. For a crisis situation 

In the case of a crisis or suicide-risk situation, we recommend that you and your patients take the following actions: (a) call 911, (b) visit your closest hospital or (c) connect with a crisis service. The following resources will provide more detail on the available services:

A. Emergency departments and psychiatric units: Most hospitals in the GTA will have an emergency psychiatry department. Some hospitals will have mobile teams, so upon calling 911 and specifying the situation, they will be able to deploy the appropriate team. 

One option that should be highlighted is St. Michael’s Hospital. Located in downtown Toronto, SMH provides Psychiatric Emergency Service in their Emergency Department. Triage, assessment, and extended observation are included in their 24/7 service. (www.stmichaelshospital.com/programs/mentalhealth/emergency.php)

B. Crisis Services Canada (www.crisisservicescanada.ca) offers 24/7 mental health support through toll-free calling, online chat, and text.

C. Gerstein Crisis Centre (www.gersteincentre.org) is a 24/7 mental health crisis service. They primarily offer telephone crisis intervention and are equipped with a mobile crisis team capturing South Central Toronto. There are limited residential crisis beds, which can be available to individuals aged 16 and above.

2. For a one-time session

A. The Good2Talk (1-866-925-5454) helpline offers confidential professional counselling for post-secondary students specifically. 

B. What’s Up Walk-In (http://www.whatsupwalkin.ca/) is available at 6 locations across Toronto. Patients are not required to present a health card for a 45-60 minute session. Counsellors specialize in talk therapy and express that “No issue is too small or too big.” A special emphasis is put on patients’ existing skills and abilities to deal with their present mental health challenges. The clinics are welcome to children, young adults, parents and guardians with concerns regarding their children, and families with children. Select time slots offer unique services to the LGBTQ+ community, as well as services available in various languages.

The Etobicoke Children’s Centre: 2267 Islington Ave Etobicoke, Ontario M9W 3W7
Griffin Centre Mental Health Services: 1126 Finch Ave West Unit 16 Toronto, Ontario M3J 3J6
Yorktown Family Services: 2010 Eglinton Ave. West Suite 300 Toronto, Ontario M6E 2K3
Skylark: 65 Wellesley Street East Suite 500 Toronto, Ontario M4Y 1G7
YouthLink: 636 Kennedy Rd  Scarborough, Ontario M1K 2B3
East Metro Youth Services: 1200 Markham Road Suite 200 Scarborough, Ontario M1H 3C3

3. For longer term treatment, there are several programs available:

A. Central Toronto Youth Services (CTYS, http://www.ctys.org) offers a variety of programs through referral or self-referral including group programs, day programs, and individual counselling. CTYS specializes in a broad range of mental health services including early intervention, recovery support, and intersectional approaches to counselling.

Age: Varies depending on the program. (New Outlook is 14-16; Community Counselling is 12-18; Pride & Prejudice for LGBTQ2+ youth is 21 and under).
Programs: Group programs, day programs, and individual counselling
Wait times: Variable.

B. East Metro Youth Services & The Griffin Centre offer interim case management programs for youth. The Whatever it Takes (W.I.T.) program addresses the need for cross-sectional care on a case-by-case basis. W.I.T acts to serve the system by assessing patients’ needs, creating an appropriate action plan, and directing them to the relevant services. The program aims to form links between system gaps and to coordinate various youth mental health supports. Referral forms can be completed on the www.emys.on.ca website by an individual’s health practitioner or by a representative from a health centre they attend.

Age: Up to 18
Programs: Case management for complex situations; counselling for the Scarborough catchment area.
Wait times: Typically will span from several weeks up to 2 months.

C. Yorktown Family Services (http://www.yorktownfamilyservices.com) offers free counselling for youth. Services can be initiated by a health professional referral or self-referral, whereby patients first visit the walk-in clinic and receive an assessment in order to be further directed to a counselling program suited for their needs (whether it be at Yorktown or at another location). 

Age: Up to 18
Programs: Counselling
Wait time: 2 months as of May 2018.

D. Programs initiated from Walk-In: The What’s Up Walk-In clinics operate in collaboration with East Metro Youth Services, YouthLink, Griffin Centre, Yorktown Family Services, Skylark, and The Etobicoke Children’s Centre. These are all community-based organizations that the What’s Up Walk-In clinics will refer into based on need.


Long Term Initiatives

The shift to a more integrated mental health system for youth in Toronto is emerging, as demonstrated by the YouthCan IMPACT initiative. This is a partnership between a number of centres to deliver mental healthcare through a collaborative approach in Toronto. Three sites in Toronto have been confirmed for the new Youth Wellness Hubs, which will provide care for youth aged 12-25 struggling with mental health or substance use. 

There are also positive trends in the education sector. Government representatives at the provincial and federal level are pressing for increased funding for mental health education, which includes implementing coping and resilience strategies in the elementary and secondary school curriculum. Meanwhile, university and college students are also advocating for standard mental health first aid training for frontline workers; including professors, teaching assistants, and administration. 

Lastly, organizations such as the Global Coalition on Youth Mental Health, with the momentum of other groups including Jack.org, iFred, and Batyr are catalyzing dialogue in efforts to place youth mental health on the G7 agenda this summer in Charlevoix, Quebec. The need for more accessible, intersectional, and comprehensive mental health service for youth continues to be moved forward at various levels. 

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