Youth mental health centre busy, but not overwhelmed

St. Clair Child & Youth Services. Submitted photo.

The interim executive director of St. Clair Child & Youth Services is painting a troubling picture of the current mental health issues facing area youth.

Craig McKenzie said they’ve noticed about a 93 per cent increase in clients coming to their front doors who have had thoughts of suicide in the last year.  He said those who are reporting suicide ideation are typically between the ages of 12 and 17.

“We do know that hospital rates around suicide and self-harm have increased over the pandemic, and it’s certainly something we work closely with our partners at Bluewater Health to make sure that those kids that need the service get support right away.”

McKenzie said over the past six months, the centre has seen an increase in the number of children and youth who are feeling overwhelmed and having a hard time coping.  He added that school closures have had an impact on kids’ mental health.

“They’re better off in schools, but I understand some of the social restrictions that happen.  Through the pandemic, we’ve certainly seen an increase of the impact on kids, both nationally and here in Sarnia-Lambton — rates of kids with eating disorders and trauma have nearly doubled in the last year.”

McKenzie said things are busy at St. Clair Child & Youth, but the team is resilient and are still available to provide service for kids and families in the community without really having to wait.

“What we don’t want to happen is for people to think that they can’t reach out for help.  The help’s available.  If you need to speak to a counsellor, typically you get connected with a counsellor within 24 to 48 hours.  And if you need in-person service, we can make it happen, but we certainly have lots of folks available for virtual care.”

McKenzie said youth who are struggling can call 519-337-3701 to get set up with a counsellor.

-With files from Natalia Vega