Scarborough organization lends a hand to mental health

An organization in Scarborough is refusing to be a bystander to mental illness and believes no one should fight their battle alone.

YouthLink took to the streets of Scarborough in 2004, recognizing the need for counselling and support which would help many young people find their way towards a healthier lifestyle.

Executive director Janice Hayes spoke about the increasing number of patients who are taking full advantage of the free walk-in counselling that takes place every Wednesday. As the number of patients grows the answer to the question, “why Scarborough?” becomes clear.

“We knew that we had to branch off into Scarborough because we knew there were a lot of kids in different areas in Scarborough that needed our help. This is why the walk-in counselling has been successful. We’re starting to see at least 25 patients a week,” Hayes said.

For almost 100 years, YouthLink has provided youth with the care and necessities they need to live a healthy life. Activities such as sports, co-ed residence and free counselling programs are also available to aid youth.

As YouthLink’s helping hand reaches out to Scarborough youth, program director Katina Watson shares her account of the walk-in program they offer.

“Our experience so far is that half of our patients get what they need from the walk-in, and then the other half will put in a request for regular counselling,” Watson said.

YouthLink recognizes that mental illness is not something a person can do alone.

“We get a lot of youths and families who come in and talk to us,” Watson said. “You need to have a strong support group around you and that is something very important to us.”

Hayes believes that this is only the beginning of YouthLink’s service to the Scarborough community.

“I think we’ve only touched the tip of the iceberg here in Scarborough,” Hayes said. “Our numbers are growing and that tells me that there are a lot of people who need our help.”

The rise of mental health statistics only motivates YouthLink staff.

“We know that one in five people will develop a mental illness, so if our organization can help that person realize and understand that they can still live a normal life, than we are doing our job,” Hayes said.

With YouthLink providing a safe haven for Scarborough youth and families, it opens the door to a possibility of hope and a bright future, which is the most rewarding for the organization.

“As long as we continue to help people who are in need, we will have no problem moving forward,” Hayes said. “There’s just so much more that we can do to help.”