The past 16 months have posed a variety of challenges for children
and youth. They have endured months of social distancing, online schooling and
other restrictions, and are again being presented with new challenges as they
navigate through a pandemic recovery which includes returning to school and
re-entering social circles. As a result, more youth and families are seeking
mental health services.
The Cornwall Community Hospital’s (CCH) Child and Youth
Mental Health Services (CYMHS) are provincially funded community-based services
which provide assessment, counselling, therapy, and caregiver support for
parents with younger children.
CYMHS is made up of a multidisciplinary team of 24 full-time
staff. Since last fall, CYMHS has seen nearly double the increase in weekly
referrals for children and youth mental health services and hired additional
staff to help keep up with the demand.
“We are seeing increased anxiety, mood disorders, suicidal
thinking, substance use, trauma, and complex grief as the lack of grieving
rituals during the pandemic has had significant impacts on children and youth,”
explains Deena Shorkey, CYMHS Director. “We are also seeing a trend towards
sibling referrals as the impact of the pandemic is affecting many members of
the same family, and caregivers are exhausted trying to manage their children's
mental health at home,” she adds.
During lockdowns amidst the pandemic, local residents and
youth have accessed therapy without leaving their home thanks to virtual
sessions offered by CCH for Community Programs including CYMHS. Nearly 80% of
the 14,200 CYMHS visits over the past 16 months have been held online or by
“The pandemic has taught us that virtual therapy is
effective and can provide easier access to services for rural youth and
families, and also allows us to enhance our services,” explains Shorkey.
Layla Walsh of Cornwall is 17 years old and has been
suffering from depression and anxiety for most of her teenage life. She relies
on the services provided by CYMHS, and without virtual counselling, she is not
sure how she would have coped with her mental illness throughout the pandemic.
“I couldn’t see anyone, I couldn’t go anywhere, we weren’t
at school, and my depression and anxiety took a turn for the worse. My counselor
was the only person I could talk to. Today I’m feeling much better and I’m so
thankful for her and everyone at CYMHS,” says Layla.
Layla is not alone, and as schools are set to reopen in the
fall, proper learning recovery will not occur unless we take this opportunity
to focus on children’s and youth mental health.
CYMHS is a member of the Kids Come First Health Team, which
is made up of 20 organizations offering mental health and addiction care for
children in Eastern Ontario. Last month the Team launched a new and unique
service called 1Call1Click.ca for local children, youth and families wanting to
be easily connected with mental health and addiction services. Visit www.1call1click.ca to learn more.
CCH is also one of the partners behind the Eastern Champlain
Youth Wellness Hub, which serves as a fully integrated one-stop-shop where
youth between the ages of 12 and 25 can address their needs related to mental
health, addiction, primary care, and other community and social services. Learn
more at www.youthhubs.ca/en/sites/eastern-champlain.
All children and youth under 18 years old in Cornwall, SDG
and Akwesasne who are experiencing mental health, behavioural or emotional
difficulties are eligible to be referred to CYMHS at CCH. For more information
please call our CYMHS team at 1-844-361-6363 or visit www.cornwallhospital.ca/en/ChildrenMentalHealth.
In the event of a crisis which requires immediate
counselling, call the Youth Services 24/7 Crisis Line at 1-877-377-7775.
Send an eCard
Patient and Family Advisory Committee
Mental Health Crisis Line
1-866-996-0991 (16 yrs +)