Teen mental-health care visits to the PRHC’s emergency room have soared 150 per cent since 2009

There has been a 150 per cent increase in mental health visits by children and teens to the emergency room at Peterborough Regional Health Centre. A walk-in mental-health clinic for youths is expected to open in the spring, but a location has not been chosen. – CLIFFORD SKARSTEDT , EXAMINER

A new walk-in mental-health clinic for children and teens is planned for Peterborough this spring after a 10-year surge in young people arriving at the local emergency room in crisis.

Since 2009, the number of visits from kids and teens needing mental-health care at the ER at Peterborough Regional Health Centre has increased 150 per cent, said Heather Holland, executive director of the Peterborough Youth Services counselling centre.

Holland said she thinks the surge is connected to the destigmatization of mental-health concerns: People are asking for help more often.

It could also be related to limited access in Peterborough to the quick service that a walk-in counselling centre might offer, she added.

PYS, Kinark Child and Family Services, and PRHC all offer free counselling for children and teens, Holland said — but all of them have long waiting lists.

At PYS, she said, the wait to see a counsellor is about 10 months — which can be daunting for some young people.

“When you’re 11 or 12 years old and you’re struggling, 10 months can feel like a really long time,” Holland said.

That’s why PYS, Kinark and PRHC are collaborating to offer a new walk-in clinic — in addition to the counselling services the three agencies now have and will continue to offer, she said.

Anyone 18 or younger will be able to walk in and see a professional counsellor about a wide range of issues, such as bullying, family conflict, separation or divorce, suicidal thoughts or behaviour, grief, trauma, gender identity, depression and anxiety, for example.

It’s still unclear exactly where the new clinic will be located — a space is needed and Holland said there are no plans to put it in the hospital.

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