Supporting Children, Youth & Young Adult Mental Health Through the Pandemic

The Cause

Our idea is to increase access to professional mental health services for vulnerable children, youth and young adults ages 3 to 24 in Calgary and area during this time of high stress and anxiety due to the extraordinary circumstances created by the COVID-19 pandemic.

This is a one-year initiative to support counselling for children, youth, and young adults up to 24 to help increase their resiliency to deal with the challenges and uncertainties they are facing, and to improve their short and long-term mental health and wellbeing with no waitlist and no financial barriers.

Their lives have been affected in many ways, and many are clearly struggling. 19 months ago, overnight, their world was turned upside down. They had to adapt to several losses and constant changes in their everyday lives: with familiar everyday routines, attending school in person and virtually, sports, vacations and simply socializing freely with friends or extended family. Months of isolation and constant changes have now taken its toll on their mental health. Children, youth, and young adults are experiencing heightened stress, anxiety and vulnerability trying to navigate a return to “normal”. It is crucial for those that help can access mental health services in a timely way. With wait times often stretching on for months for publicly funded services, and private counselling is unaffordable for many, Calgary Counselling Centre is addressing a crucial gap in accessing mental health services at this time of pressing need.

This year we have a unique opportunity that if we are selected to receive funds from the Field Law Community Fund Program a donor will match funds raised dollar for dollar.

Who Will it Benefit?

Children, youth, and young adults ages 3-24 and their families will benefit from increased access to mental health services. Calgary Counselling Centre offers accessible counselling to them and their families with no referral, no waitlist and with financial subsidies available for those might otherwise not be able to afford services. We will never turn someone away regardless of their ability to pay. On March 16, when the stay-at-home order was announced, the Centre quickly pivoted to safely deliver counselling remotely through video or phone sessions.

Anxiety and depression are the two most common issues for which children and youth seek help; both issues potentially made worse by the isolation and uncertainty they have been experiencing over the last year and a half. Fortunately, both anxiety and depression can be treated effectively by counselling. Of the 3,134 children, youth, and young adults between 3 and 24 that we saw in 2020, 95.8% recovered, improved, or experienced more stability in their lives after counselling. We measured this by our standard mental health questionnaire at every session. Our goal is to make sure that all children, youth, and young adults who need help can access it, regardless of their ability to pay.

In 2020, over 56% of those aged 3-24 who turned to us for help were not in the position to pay full fees and they needed financial subsidies. Of the 13,395 counselling sessions we provided to this age group, 9,329 were subsidized, a 15.5% increase from 2019. We saw an increase in number of clients as well as the number of sessions they had from 2019 – as the pandemic impacted this particular group in many ways.

Young people, ages 3-24, are one of the most vulnerable age groups when it comes to mental health. Even when life returns to a “new normal”, the effects of the pandemic will likely linger, and their mental health needs are expected to remain high for months or even years to come. Funds from Field Law will help these vulnerable young people access the help they need when they need it, regardless of their ability to pay.