There’s no question the COVID-19 pandemic has affected the mental well-being of Canadians across the country — and the impact on the mental health of youth and young adults has been particularly severe. Nearly one out of five students have reported psychological distress in the wake of the pandemic – almost double what was self-reported before the pandemic according to a recent study conducted by Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH). And a recent RBC Future Launch Youth Outlook study of Canadians aged 14 – 29 revealed that more than half (52 per cent) said that the pandemic has negatively affected their mental health and emotional well-being.
Youth are already vulnerable to mental health struggles. As Eric Windeler, founder of Jack.org explained in a recent interview, 75 per cent of the onset of mental illness happens between the ages of 15 and 24. “Young people in these transition years are going through so much,” he says. “Maybe it’s the first time living away from home, their first relationship, their first breakup, etc. It’s a period of maturation of mind and body, and when you struggle for the first time it’s very challenging.”
Add in the disruptions and stressors of the pandemic at the same time, and youth are in an especially challenging and distressing situation.
RBC has had a long-term commitment to supporting the mental well-being of Canadian youth since 2008. Recognizing that the best health outcomes for those with mental illness happen when intervention occurs as soon as possible — and that access to care has been significantly disrupted due to the pandemic — RBC has enhanced its support of partners to help address barriers to accessibility.
Youth across Canada face a wide range of circumstances. As such, RBC has partnered with organizations that offer regional, virtual and integrated support, delivering the solutions young people need, where and when they need them.
Enhancing access to mental health virtual services
For more than 30 years, Kids Help Phone has been Canada’s only 24/7, national support service for youth. As a long-standing partner, RBC committed last year to invest in a ground-breaking innovative technology platform that will help Kids Help Phone meet record demand and change the way young people access and experience mental healthcare in Canada.
Integrated Youth Services (IYS) is an innovative model that aims to build effective, youth-focused integrated services for mental health and other related issues. The model centres around removing barriers for young people to access care, informed by youth and family advisors who access these services on an ongoing basis.
RBC is investing over $4 million in IYS networks and single-site hubs across the country, including Youth Wellness Hubs Ontario, Foundry in British Columbia, IYS networks in Alberta, Manitoba and Newfoundland, and FRAYME nationally. RBC has been partnering with other foundations such as the Graham Boeckh Foundation to support and scale this model nationally.
More targeted support for youth
RBC has also enhanced and introduced support for organizations that offer local services for youth across the country.
With the East Coast of Canada closing its borders to the rest of Canada, their youth were separated from the rest of the country throughout the pandemic, resulting in a significant sense of isolation. Uncertainty around lockdowns has also taken its toll and in a region with a large rural population, access to care has been a challenge. RBC partner Jack.org has pivoted mental health services to digital platforms to reach youth where they are.
In Ontario, RBC has increased and renewed support for Youth Wellness Hubs Ontario, an innovative CAMH project that aims to bring the right services to youth (and their families), at the right time and at the right place. With low-barrier access to services and skill-building tools, youth can build resilience and overcome the issues they are facing. Furthermore, RBC’s support of New Path enabled this children’s mental health agency to expand its free mental health services to youth in rural communities.
In Edmonton, RBC is supporting YOUCan Youth Services and their Verto Project, which assists young people who are not in employment, education or training programs. This unique 20-week pre-employment program helps at-risk youth transition out of harm’s way and back into school or into the workforce.
In British Columbia, RBC’s expanded support of Foundry, an organization that offers young people 12-24 health and wellness resources and services, has enabled an expansion of virtual support to rural communities.
To help address the unique challenges faced by LGBTQ2+ youth, RBC has partnered with KW Counselling, which is providing free phone and video counselling services for LGBTQ2+ individuals between the ages of 19 and 29.
To support the post-secondary education experience for Indigenous youth, RBC is working with the University of Regina to provide access to targeted services for this population.
Race for the Kids
RBC Race for the Kids has supported children and youth-focused causes since 2009. What started as a single event is now a series of 17 charitable races that take place around the world. In 2020, $8 million was raised by the reimagined, virtual race taking place in cities across the globe, and altogether the series has raised more than $57 million to date.
Through the RBC Foundation and the RBC Future Launch commitment, RBC supports more than 150 youth mental health organizations across the country, making it one of the largest supporters of youth mental well-being resources in Canada.
“At RBC, we recognize the importance of mental well-being on a young person’s ability to achieve success and their success directly impacts the strength of our workplaces, schools and communities,” says Mark Beckles, Vice-President, Social Impact & Innovation, RBC. “That is why we remain committed to helping our partners provide the mental health supports and services needed to address the barriers often faced by young people when trying to access the resources they need.”
RBC’s expanded support of new and existing mental health partners helps extend the impact, effectiveness and accessibility of youth mental health resources for young people across the country — from coast to coast to coast.
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