For youth and their families, Chatham-Kent Children’s Services (CKCS) is expanding its mental health services to include a new walk-in counselling clinic, Door of Hope.
At the grand opening of the new clinic Dec. 15 at the CKCS offices in Chatham, children’s mental health supervisors Sally Reaume and Julie Whalen briefed community agencies involved in youth services, and mental health staff welcomed visitors.
Also at the opening was Chatham Kent Secondary School Grade 10 student Peyton Koole, the winner of the poster contest held during Mental Health Week in May, to name the new clinic. Koole, who said she is interested in pursuing a future in the visual arts, won a similar poster contest two years ago with CKCS.
The Grade 10 student got the idea for the name of the clinic by researching similar programs, and her poster shows a youth walking through a dark door, but coming out a door with blue sky and a rainbow. Under the Door of Hope name are the words, “Hope sees the invisible, feels the intangible and achieves the impossible.”
“I was looking through pictures and saw the Open Door clinic names with an adult in the doorway, but kids are more relatable to me,” Koole explained about how she used a young person in her poster. “When you go in you have no hope, and when you come out, you do.”
According to Reaume, the clinic offers immediate service to children ages six to 17 with mental health concerns such as anxiety, depression, grief, bullying and family issues. It offers a single treatment session with the goal of supporting clients using their own strengths and skills to understand the problem they are struggling with and develop solutions.
“The goal is to allow people to have service when they need it. The demand is high; there are so many kids who need services,” Reaume said. “But not everyone wants to come in for ongoing sessions. They just want to deal with the problem at hand. With the walk-in clinic, they can try it out and see if they feel comfortable.”
Crisis situations are different, Reaume said, and they encourage people to call the main office to arrange for crisis care. If someone is suicidal or in distress, they will be referred to crisis services and connected with someone who can stabilize the crisis.
At the walk-in clinic, which runs the first and third Wednesday of each month from 1 p.m. to 7 p.m. (last session begins at 5:30 p.m.), clients will come in and be greeted by staff, then are asked to fill out a questionnaire to identify why they are coming in. They will also be asked to identify their strengths and positive problem solving skills used in the past and then meet with 2 counsellors – one lead and one as an additional resource. Together, a plan will be formed using the strengths and skills they already have, and the family will walk away with an action plan.
Part of the counselling, Reaume said, is to get the client to externalize the problem and see it outside themselves. For instance, drawing a picture of what their anger looks like and naming it Mr. Scaredy, or in the case of anxiety, writing it a break-up letter.
“The creativity and ideas they come up are awesome,” she said. “We are putting the ideas kids have come up with, like fighting off Mr. Scaredy, into a resource for youth to see and use.”
Recent renovations to the clinic also are meant to put people at ease, with artwork created for CKCS by local artist Melissa Fernandes. Reaume said the art pieces add a special touch to the rooms, with encouraging and uplifting messages.
The response from parents has been positive, Reaume said.
“One parent indicated that she recognized ‘that I have many talents and problem-solving skills and that I should use them more often when they are needed.’ Another parent said, ‘Thank you for validating my concerns and reminding me that I’m doing my best.’”
For more information on the Door of Hope walk in clinic, please call (519) 352-0440 ext. 2 or visit www.ckcs.on.ca.