Relief is on the way for young adult Calgarians who are unable to access or afford mental health services.
The Minds Over Matter Mental Health Society is re-launching its ‘barrier-free’ counselling program which provides eight free therapy sessions for 18 to 30-year-olds making a living wage of under $30,000 per year.
The program, supported by private donations and an Alberta government grant, helped more than 40 Calgarians in its first launch in March of 2021.
It has since received additional funds and has now re-launched with applications being accepted online on at mindsovermatter.me.
“There’s no barriers and we don’t want people waiting months and months for help,” said Rick Lundy, president of the Minds Over Matter Mental Health Society.
“As children, there are more resources for kids with mental health issues, but when they become adults, those dry up, and a lot of young people starting out in their lives don’t have enough benefits to be able to pay for a counselor which is usually about $200 a session.”
Lundy says his team has expanded to 12 counsellors now providing mental health support for those in need.
The program is music to the ears of Ash Carcamo who has been struggling to find mental health treatment for several years after she became an adult.
The 24-year-old student is working part-time to support herself, but unable to find the care she needs to cope with her high anxiety, depression and ADHD.
“Just the cost of living and going to school is difficult and then trying to find counseling that is within my price range that can address who I am is really difficult,” Carcamo said.
“Hearing about this program is huge for me, even just having this as a starting point for anyone struggling with the complexities of scheduling and money makes this process a lot less daunting.”
Barrier Free Counselling says it’s working to line up clients with counsellors that meet specific needs and can relate to different stressful situations in one’s life.
Carcamo adds that finding a counsellor that works for her or for others who are members of the LGBTQ2S+ community is also an important factor.
“The more I am learning about myself and everyone around me, It makes it harder to find somebody I feel comfortable opening up to and talking about because of the complexities that not only come with my individual identity, but the people who I’m trying to be a better person for,” she said.
“Money is a huge barrier. Energy is a huge barrier. I’m just happy to hear that these programs exist.”
WAIT TIMES INCREASING FOR COUNSELLING SERVICES
The Calgary Counselling Centre operated at one point for more than 15 years without a waitlist, but the demand for mental health services is increasing so much that clients in need are now having to delay their appointments.
When Calgarians call for support, they receive the following voice message.
“Due to an increased demand for our services, it is taking longer than normal for our clients to be assigned a counsellor.”
“We are doing everything we can to return to our process of no wait-list. When you have been assigned to a counsellor, they will contact you to set up your first appointment.”
The Calgary Counselling Centre had previously noted earlier this year that it had seen a 20 per cent increase in people reaching out and requesting support.
The number of post-secondary students asking for mental health assistance has also doubled according to the organization, which says the pressures of going to school, along with layers of personal isolation, loss, grief, and financial barriers all add to that burden.
According to the latest data from the Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI), about half of Canadians wait up to a month for ongoing counselling services in their community, while one in 10 can wait more than four months.”