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Mental health resources for youth

University is like a petri dish for mental health problems. Young people, often for the first time, are away from home, dealing with serious financial as well as academic responsibilities. We are also expected to develop a whole new social life, stacked high with the pressures of sex, drugs and alcohol.

The Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) estimates ten to 20 per cent of Canadian youth are affected by a mental illness or disorder. That’s as many as 100 of your 500 Facebook friends.

Schizophrenia strikes youth aged 16 to 30 more than in any other age group, according to the CMHA, affecting about one in 100 people. “That’s five students in your first year biology class.”

Suicide is the second most common cause of death for Canadians aged 15 to 24, accounting for one in four deaths. The CMHA estimates 4,000 Canadians die each year because of suicide.

Often help may seem out of reach for someone experiencing severe mental illness, but we’ve compiled a list of mental health resources that cater to youth. The CMHA says 80 per cent of people who experience depression can be helped once the illness is recognized.

If you think you might suffer from a mental disorder, use these resources. You won’t need a referral for most of them, and confidentiality is guaranteed. But the key to fighting mental problems, in yourself and in our society, is accepting they are a public health problem. There is nothing shameful or strange about your suffering. And there are so many different ways to get help.

Emergency help:

If you or a friend experiences an emergency, such as thoughts of suicide or psychosis, call the Mental Health Mobile Crisis Team at 429-8167 or toll-free at 1-888-429-8167. This service is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The mobile team is able to pick you up between 1 p.m and 1 a.m. and drive you to the IWK’s emergency department. They will ensure you go through the proper check-in procedures. Or call the Metro Help Line at 494-2081. This line offers suicide and crisis intervention, counselling referrals and over-the-phone counselling from 8 a.m to 11:30 p.m.

Web resources:

The Canadian Centre for Suicide Prevention:

The Canadian Mental Health Association:

Mental Health Canada:

Centre for Addiction and Mental Health:

Community Mental Health Services:,

On Campus:

Dalhousie Counselling Services

Located on the fourth floor of the Student Union Building, the appointment-based Dal Counselling Centre is open to all Dal, King’s and NSCAD students. This service offers a variety of workshops to combat stress, anxiety, grief or loss, but also allows students to speak directly to a counsellor about a range of mental health disorders.

Students can make priority-based appointments, but often wait lists during exam time can be up to five weeks long.

Fortunately the centre also keeps hours open daily for students who need immediate help. To request immediate help in an emergency situation, call 494·2081.

The Dalhousie Counselling Centre is open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday, Thursday and Friday, and 9 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. Tuesday and Wednesday. Call 494-2081 to make an appointment. Visit for more information.

The Dal Counselling Centre is a safe space for members of the LGBTQ community through Allies at Dal.

Dalhousie Counselling Centre Workshops:

Anger management: This counselling program aims to help students identify anger triggers and understand myths about anger; helping them to reduce anger intensity. This course is not suitable for students who experience angry feelings after drinking alcohol.

Self-esteem improvement: Students with insecurities might benefit from this weekly program of five 90-minute sessions. Often low confidence can worsen on a busy campus, but with coaching, students can work on asserting themselves and building their overall confidence.

Eating disorders group: This group is for students who expenence regular problems eating, such as overeating, bulimia, anorexia, binging or purging. This program aims to connect possible underlying emotions with eating disorders. This group provides a safe space for students to talk freely about their eating habits on a weekly basis.

Overcoming depression group: This eight·session program may help students who are dealing with symptoms of depression, such as fatigue or decreased energy, difficulty concentrating or making decisions, insomnia, feelings of guilt, worthlessness or helplessness, regular anxious or sad feelings and, sometimes, thoughts ·of suicide. This program includes group discussion and individual tasks.

Other workshops include healthy relationships, managing anxiety, parental divorce, relationship loss, and sleep and relaxation groups. Visit for more information or call 494-2081 to express your interest in joining a group.

The Feeling Better Program

For Dal, King’s or NSCAD students who are experiencing mild to moderate symptoms of depression, anxiety or stress, and who are not already seeing a psychologist, this new online program provides self-help on the go.

Students can work through five core and six optional modules on their laptops, spending only one to two hours on each level. They will also have regular contact with a coach over the phone or by e-mail.

Interested students can e-mail for more information. This service is provided through Dal Counselling Services.

The Mark A. Hill Accessibility Centre

Snuggled between the Dal quad and the stairs outside the Killam Library, the Accessibility Centre is not only a resource for students with physical disabilities – it also provides help for those who have been diagnosed with learning disabilities and mental health disorders.

The centre’s services include help in finding funding, tutors, note-takers, readers and scribes. Through the Accessibility Centre, students can also arrange to take exams m an environment or time slot more suitable for them.

Call 494-2836 or e-mail for more information. Or check the centre out online at

The Dalhousie Women’s Centre

This centre is located in a cozy white house on South Street near Dalplex. The volunteers at the women’s centre can refer students to queer-friendly practitioners in Halifax. The volunteers are also trained to help during crisis situations.

The centre is open to people of all genders and is a safe space for members of the LGBTQ community. Studies on suicide rates among youth in the LGBTQ community are rare, but in 2003, a study done in British Columbia found that young lesbian women are up to five times more likely to attempt suicide than young heterosexual women.

Call 494-2432 or e-mail Or visit the website:

Residence Assistants

Every RA in Dal residence, even mini-res, has gone through crisis and suicide prevention training. RAs are expected to have an open door policy with the students in their section of residence. Students can knock on their RA’s door at any hour of the day or night to receive amateur counselling. RAs will usually refer students to Dal Counselling Services, but are trained to listen and help students in crisis situations.

Dalhousie Health Clinic

Though this clinic on the first floor of Howe Hall has a bad reputation for mental health services, it is still a valuable on-campus resource. During summer hours and exam time, the clime should not be your first resource, but Dal students with insurance or a student health plan can make appointments with a psychiatrist.

The clinic is open 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday to Friday and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on weekends and holidays.

This service is not a walk-in clinic, but the nurses will not turn away a student who comes to them in the midst of a crisis.

To make an appoinment, call 494-2171. Don’t miss your appointment – you’ll be billed $30.

Peer Health

Though Peer Health, Dal’s “Health and wellness source”,· has no information on mental health posted on their website, The Gazette was able to gain information from a student who went through Peer Health orientation

The “Mind-Body Health” division of Peer Health, according to the orientation guide, provides programs for students such as yoga and meditation, stress and anxiety, time management and positive body image workshops.

E-mail the Peer Health communications team at for more information. Don’t visit the website.

Yes! Plus (offered by the Art of Living Foundation)

If you have $300 to drop and a few free days, this might be the program for you. This monthly six-day workshop that takes place in the Student Union Building claims to eliminate stress, increase mental clarity and improve productivity simply through meditation and breathing techniques. The next workshop starts in late October.

E-mail or call 412-3042 to sign up. Proceeds go toward humanitarian efforts worldwide.

Off Campus:

Community Mental Health Services

If you don’t know where to go, Capital Health’s Community Mental Health Services is a good place to start. It is a community outpatient service that offers general mental health service. The staff is trained to work with individuals and families dealing with mental illnesses such as anxiety, complex depression, bipolar disorder, adjustment disorders and schizophrenia. The services provided range from initial one-on-one mental health assessments to group and individual therapy, and family and community education. Because this is a part of Capital District Health, it is covered by health insurance. The Com- mumty Mental Health Service can be accessed through a referral by a doctor, agency, family member, or by self-referral.

The outpatient service is located at 7071 Bayers Rd., Suite 109, and is open Monday to Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. For more information call 454-1400 or 454-1440. Or visit

Healthy Minds Co-operative

This co-operative is a member owned and democratically run not-for-profit mental health enterprise. They help members move through the health system, or find peers who are gomg through the same things they are. They have an abundant list of mental health resources and can point you in the right direction with a referral if it is not clear where to turn. To become a member, simply fill out a form and pay the one time membership fee of $5. The Healthy Minds Co-operative ts located at 7071 Bayers Rd., Suite 112, and can be reached at 404-3504. Visit the co-op online at

IWK Mental Health and Addictions Service

The IWK Mental Health and Addictions Service provides many different mental health programs to individuals under the age of 19. If you are under 19 and would like to access the programs provided by the IWK, the first step is to call Central Referral at the IWK. They will be able to assess you and tell you what program would best suit your mental health needs. The IWK also has a Mental Health Crisis team located in the emergency department (call 1-888-429-8167). This team deals with cases that would need hospitalization, such as manic or psychotic episodes, severe depression and suicidal or homicidal feelings. Contact the IWK Central Referral at 464-4110.

Mental Health First Aid Workshop

Built like the mental health equivalent to First Aid programs, Mental Health First Aid is a government-sponsored program that trains people to act as first responders to those who are suffenng from a mental illness or crisis. Participants in the Mental Health First Aid workshops will learn the symptoms and signs of mental illness as well as the resources available to those who suffer from depression, anxiety disorders, psychosis and substance use disorders, among others. The basic course is 12-hours long, delivered in four three-hour parts. The registration fee is $50. Sign up by calling Tony Prime at 424-7235. The next available course will be Dec. 10 and 11, at the joseph Howe Build- ing at 1690 Hollis St. For more information about Mental Health First Aid and a description of the course content visit

Canadian Mental Health Association

The Canadian Mental Health Association, a nation-wide voluntary mental health organization, is a great source for information on mental health. The Halifax-Dartmouth Branch of the CMHA is located in the Bloomfield Center, 2786 Agncola St. Although the CMHA doesn’t have counselling services, it is a great resource centre. They work to provide a huge variety of supports to people who need it. They have social clubs, such as the Among Friends Social Club (86A Portland St., Dartmouth, 463-2187) and the Sharing and Caring Social Club (Room 114, Bloomfield Center, 455-0072).

The CMHA is also a great place to get involved as a volunteer. The Building Bridges Program (455-6983) is a program that matches a volunteer with an individual who has dealt with a mental illness to share leisure interests in the community or Halifax.

If you would like to find out more about the Canadian Mental Health Association and its programs check out The Links section on the website also provides an extensive list of mental health resources around Halifax and Dartmouth.

Laing House

Lamg House runs on a peer support system, providing help for youth with mental illness. It is aimed at individuals between the ages of 16 and 30 who have suffered from mood disorders, psychosis or anxiety disorders and are looking for help rebuilding their lives. Laing has programs about education, healthy living, employment, family and peer support, and community outreach.

The programs, which have largely been developed by youth in its community, aim to help other youth develop their own skills and talents.

Laing House, found at 1225 Barrington St., is a space for individuals to come and relax, do laundry, participate in workshops or get one-on-one help from the Community Support Staff.

Laing House also tries to break down the stigmas surrounding mental illness with programs like Youth Speak, where members go out into the community to talk about their experiences living with a mental illness.

To become a part of Laing House you don’t need a referral. The programs and services provided by Laing House are free.

To find out more about the organization, or to see if it is the right resource for you, call Laing House’s programming staff at 425-9018, or visit

Self-Help Connection

Self Help Connection promotes self-help groups around the province. They are a valuable networking service for the health needs of Nova Scotians. Self-Help Connection also has the capacity to perform research and evaluation of self-help and mental health issues. Although Self-Help Connection doesn’t specialize in mental health issues, it is a fantastic resource to use if you are looking to better your mental health through peer support or self help groups.

Self Help Connection is located on the second floor of the Canadian Mental Health Building, 63 King St., Dartmouth. For more information about the organization, call 466-2011 or 1-866-765-6639. Visit

Teen Mental Health

The Teen Mental Health website,, is a project of the Sun Life Financial Chair in Adolescent Mental Health, the IWK Health Center and Dalhousie University. The website’s goal is to enhance the knowledge and understanding of mental illness in hopes of improving the disability felt by young people with mental disorders. It is a fantastic resource for anything from information about the teen brain and how to understand mental illness, to information for professionals. It is run by Stan Kutcher; the expert interviewed in Holly Huntley’s news article in this issue about the state of mental health counselling at our university.

With files from Bethany Horne.

This article was originally published in issue 142-04 on Oct. 2, 2009.


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