Fergus set to get a mental health and support site for youth

Cyndy Forsyth stands in the middle of a room with a green banner next to her
Cyndy Forsyth, director of the IYSN applauds Skyline and other organizations that have offered to support the mental health and support services site in Fergus, Ontario. Photo courtesy of IYSN's Facebook page.
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The Canadian Mental Health Association Waterloo Wellington (CMHA WW) is bringing a youth mental health and support services site to Fergus.

It is the pilot for CMHA WW’s Integrated Youth Services Network (IYSN), which will see a total of seven sites developed across the county.

The Fergus site is currently being built thanks to a generous donation of $600,000 from the Skyline Group of Companies, and it is slated to open June 2021.

Cyndy Forsyth, director of the IYSN, said the site will provide services to youth aged 12 to 26 years-old such as addiction counselling and mental health, employment and education support, housing, plus a variety of youth programming that youth have requested.

“So, one of the surprising things that I learned is youth are really asking for cooking lessons, and they want trivia and movie nights, they want a place where they can just hang out and have a coffee with their friends, they want tutoring help, this is what youth are telling us what they want,” Forsyth said.

Forsyth said what they need to do is listen to the youth, so that they can provide that warm welcoming space where they feel comfortable and they trust the staff, so that they will ask for the services when and if they need them.

She said there is a big need for the site in the community, as they have seen a significant increase in self-harm rates in the area.

“Across Ontario, we know that the leading cause of death for youth between the ages of 12 and 24 is suicide,” Forsyth said. “Here 24/7 the Canadian Mental Health Association Waterloo Wellington call in service has seen a 30 per cent increase in calls recently.”

Forsyth said prior to the pandemic, they knew one in five suffered from mental health related issues, and since the pandemic started, they estimate at the very least that number has risen to three in five, if not five in five.

She said the IYSN project was inspired by Dr. Joanna Henderson and the Youth Wellness Hubs Ontario model to create the next iteration, so they could focus on three primary areas.

“The first is rural youth, we want to increase the accessibly of services to them, the second primary area is focusing on transitional aged youth between the ages of 16 and 24, who are aging out of the youth system and don’t know how to navigate the adult system,” Forsyth said.

Forsyth said the third primary area of focus is technology, where they’re bringing the service providers under one system so they can provide that integrated care.

She said this means that a young person will only have to tell their story once in order to access and use the services at any of the IYSN sites.

It is estimated that the site will serve over 5,000 youth in the area, and it will be located at the Skyline Community Hub, right across from the Big Brothers Big Sisters of Centre Wellington’s BHive.

Cyndy Forsyth, director of the IYSN: