Kramberger: Youth can access mental-health services at Kirkland drop-in centre

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Overcoming the perceived stigma of seeking help for mental-health issues has been trending in recent years. Yet there remains an ongoing demand for better access to services.

To that end, West Island teens and young adults can take advantage of a new drop-in centre in Kirkland, which has a focus on mental health. It’s part of the provincially funded Aire ouverte network of integrated health services for people between the ages of 12 and 25. It is managed locally by the West Island CIUSSS, which oversees another drop-in centre in LaSalle that opened last year.

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It complements available services at CLCSs or such community-driven organizations as the YMCA’s Y Mind, a mental wellness initiative that helps students cope with anxiety and stress. Y Mind launched this fall at two Pointe-Claire high schools and John Abbott College. There are also the long-running mentoring matches provided by Big Brothers and Big Sisters of West Island.

Ina Winkelmann, the West Island health authority’s associate director of its mental health and addictions program, said Aire ouverte Kirkland, which opened its doors in September, aims to provide youth with more accessible care in a less formal setting. It’s situated in a converted retail store along a commercial strip on St-Charles Blvd.

“It’s marketed as a global health initiative. It’s meant to be a barrier-free drop-in service for youth for anything they may need help in. We know, however, that the No. 1 reason youth in that age range come to consult for their health is for mental health,” Winkelmann said.

Onsite staff includes a sexologist, spiritual counsellor, occupational therapists, nurses and a social worker. A doctor has so far committed to spending about half a day once a month at the centre.

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Single-session interventions to provide therapy will be offered to meet the needs of youth seeking help. The drop-in centre hopes to reach youth before their crisis becomes acute, Winkelmann noted.

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“We can offer anything from relationship counselling to academic help if they are experiencing problems at school,” she said. “It’s really based on whatever the young person is asking us for. We either try to help them onsite or refer them to the right service.”

Aire ouverte Kirkland works in partnership with CEGEPs in the region as well as the West Island YMCA and the Carrefour jeunesse-emploi de l’Ouest-de-l’Île, which host satellite service points in Pointe-Claire. The centre also has a vehicle to offer mobile services, connecting with youth via visits to homes or schools.

Stigma around mental health has decreased over the years, Winkelmann said. “Young people are very knowledgeable about different mental health issues: ADHD, depression, anxiety. They use the terminology. They identify with these disorders much more and are less worried about the stigma attached to getting help. But what we still do see is that they are not very consistent in coming (for care services). Those who do really need the help, the very vulnerable youth, are the ones we are still not reaching. That’s where the mobile component comes in,” she added.

Winkelmann said parents can encourage their teens to drop in if they detect any behavioural warning signs, such as a detachment from friends or significant habit changes.

Aire ouverte Kirkland is at 2820 St-Charles Blvd., just south of Highway 40. Drop-in times are Mondays and Wednesdays from 2 to 8 p.m., and Tuesdays and Fridays from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., plus Saturday, Dec. 2, and Saturday, Dec. 16 from 1 to 5 p.m. For more information, or to schedule an appointment, call 438-864-4385. The centre can be found on Facebook and Instagram by searching Aire ouverte Ouest de l’Île de Montréal.

People struggling with mental-health issues can call Info-Social at 811, Option 2. If you are having thoughts of suicide, call 911 or Suicide Action Montreal at 1-866-277-3553.

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