January 10, 2024

Cultivating A Smoother Transition for Young Adults Receiving Mental Health Care

A $25,000 grant from the John Deere Foundation of Canada is cultivating a smoother transition for young people who are aging out of the pediatric mental health care system and entering the adult one.

The grant is helping to fund a Community Support Counsellor at St. Joe’s Youth Wellness Centre (YWC). The centre is home to a team of clinical experts and peer support staff, like Amanda Engelhardt, who often have lived experience with mental illness or substance use, and now provide mental health and substance abuse services to youth ages 17-25.

In Ontario, when young people become adults, they transition to receiving care from the adult healthcare system. While this may sound simple enough, for a teen, the transition means a lot of changes to navigate. Their care provider, the places where they access care and how they access that care can all change as soon as a youth celebrates their 18th birthday. It can be intimidating and can cause emotional distress – which often leads to many young adults abandoning their treatment.

“The biggest challenge that our clients face is greater wait times for services in the adult system,” Amanda explains. “It can be really hard to adjust because in the pediatric system there is more intensive, immediate care and frequent check-ins. In the adult system, clients are expected to be more accountable for themselves. For young people, this can create a lot of anxiety and deterrence in sticking with their treatment plans.”

That’s where Amanda’s role comes in to help. Through supportive counselling and her own lived experience navigating the mental health system, Amanda provides interim support to a roster of roughly 50 young people at the YWC. During this vulnerable time, she helps clients, like Jessie*, to develop the advocacy, empowerment and self-care skills and strategies they need to navigate the adult mental health care system on their own.

Jessie’s Story

Jessie was referred to the YWC at age 19. Jessie had suffered significant trauma as a child, and struggled with self-harm and thoughts of suicide as an adolescent.

Unfortunately, Jessie’s transition into the adult healthcare system was not going smoothly. Jessie dropped out of school. They were socially withdrawn, and not engaging in services designed to help them. That is until they met Amanda.

After just a few months of one-on-one counselling, Jessie went on to finish high school, volunteer in the community, and enrol in post-secondary school. They also moved forward with mental health treatment, and are now able to manage their symptoms independently to thrive as a young adult.

“Watching clients achieve their goals and being able to acknowledge their own progress is the most rewarding part of my job, because many don’t expect to make it that far,” Amanda says. “It really shows that having a supportive person in their life, which many might not have, can make a big difference – the difference between waiting on their own to get care and falling through the cracks or building the skills and strategies necessary to endure wait times and get the treatment they need.”

St. Joe’s couldn’t be more grateful to the John Deere Foundation of Canada for its philanthropic support of the transition stream at the YWC that led to Jessie’s positive outcomes.

“The John Deere Foundation of Canada helps bring to life John Deere’s higher purpose – we run so life can leap forward – by investing deeply in the people we serve to overcome the challenges they face today and create for themselves paths to a more prosperous tomorrow. Supporting the ability for young people to gain access to stigma-free mental health care in a safe space is just one way we work with charitable organizations to bring that higher purpose to life,” says Karen DeBreau, Communications and Corporate Social Responsibility Lead at John Deere Canada.

“Amanda’s role is very much needed to bridge the gap between pediatric and adult care for young people in Hamilton. We couldn’t be happier to support the YWC as it continues on its mission to break down the barriers to mental health care that many young people face.”

This story was originally published in our 2022-23 Donor Impact Report. Click here to read the full report and discover other inspiring stories from our supporters.

Photo above: Amanda Engelhardt, a Community Support Counselor at the Youth Wellness Centre. Her role was supported in part by a gift from John Deere Foundation of Canada.

*Jessie’s name has been changed to protect their identity.

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