In my day job as a high school teacher, my colleagues and I deal with student mental health concerns on a daily basis.
Talk to any teacher, or for that matter, anyone who works with youth, and he or she will tell you how much the job has changed over the past few years. Each year, it seems teachers spend more time dealing with student mental health issues, leaving less and less time to deliver the curriculum mandated by legislation.
Complicating matters, even though each teacher is required to take courses in basic special education and psychology in teacher’s college, many of us do not feel qualified to counsel students and to help them deal with mental health issues. A few hours of in-service training, as well, can only go so far.
So, as we head back to school this week, it’s great to know that Niagara-on-
the-Lake youth now have a local place to turn to for mental health services.
This week, Pathstone Mental Health Services announced that beginning Sept. 9, a free walk-in clinic will be run every Monday at Red Roof Retreat. The clinic will operate from 11:30 a.m. until 7:30 p.m., with the last appointment taken at 6 p.m.
Youth up to the age of 18 can visit the clinic free of charge, without accompaniment by a parent or guardian, and with no health card required.
This is a huge and very welcome step toward solving what many view as an epidemic, and serious concern to the future health of our children. Pathstone will be offering a safe space for them to visit, to discuss their fears, concerns and worries with a professional, one who is armed with the resources and tools to help them.
It’s a partnership between the Town of Niagara-on-the-Lake, the Lord Mayor’s Youth Advisory Committee, Red Roof Retreat, the Niagara Community Foundation, and, of course, Pathstone Mental Health.
Says Steffanie Bjorgan of Red Roof Retreat, “we welcome the opportunity to share (our space and property) with children and youth seeking mental health support. Together, we hope the walk-in clinic can give hope and positive growth to the young people who need it the most.”
And the local aspect of this clinic is, from my perspective, a huge benefit to our youth. Already, as we know, most of our youth must leave our community to attend high school in St. Catharines or Niagara Falls. That, in itself, can be a huge stressor to a Grade 8 boy or girl making the transition from Crossroads, St. Michael or St. Davids School.
Think of those other milestones that occur for every teen during those years. Puberty, first loves, fitting in with friends, stresses over marks and exams, and having to decide on their futures at such a young age.
For all of those reasons, the timing of this announcement couldn’t be more perfect. And the help these kids need can be found right here in their own community.
Kudos to Pathstone Mental Health Services, Red Roof Retreat, the Town and its youth committee, and all of those involved for stepping up to the plate to help our youth. It is a very big step in the right direction.