Mood and anxiety program for adolescents and young adults provides timely access to care

Two years ago Hannah felt sad. She lost interest in activities she once enjoyed, became withdrawn and focused on bad thoughts. Hannah was 12 years old. The symptoms, once manageable, became worse and by the time she was 14, Hannah’s mood plummeted. She felt like she was losing control.

Her friends and family could have disregarded her mood as typical teenage behaviour, but luckily they recognized that Hannah needed help. After visits with a counsellor and family doctor, Hannah was referred to the Mood and Anxiety Program (MAP) for Adolescents and Young Adults provided in partnership with Ontario Shores Centre for Mental Health Sciences (Ontario Shores) and Lakeridge Health – Child Youth and Family Program (CYFP).

After completing 12 weeks in MAP, Hannah feels more confident and better equipped to deal with everyday situations. She also feels more engaged and able to enjoy the little things in life such as talking with friends or playing cards with her family. Everyone is thrilled to have old Hannah back.

“The biggest difference we see in Hannah is that she is more assertive,” says Michael McDonnell, Hannah’s father. “Hannah was always a strong and independent person who would stand up for anyone or any cause, but now she is able to stand up and advocate for herself.”

MAP provides adolescents and young adults who are experiencing significant mood and anxiety symptoms with timely access to care. The interprofessional team, which includes child and adolescent psychiatrists, social workers, counsellors and psychologists, work with youth to create specialized recovery plans based on the individual’s needs.

Hannah’s father pointed out that while Hannah had asked for support, she also wanted her independence. MAP provides adolescents with an independent journey through the program to gain autonomy, while parents receive separate treatment to assist in their child’s recovery.

“The treatment was great,” says Hannah. “I felt very involved and learned how to make changes within myself to get better. I also learned relaxation and meditation techniques as well as how to look at situations from many perspectives, not just the worst case scenario.”

The partnership between Ontario Shores and Lakeridge Health – CYFP offers patients shared resources, reduced wait times and flexible follow-up services. The initial intake and assessments can occur at Ontario Shores or Lakeridge

“Lakeridge Health is proud to partner with Ontario Shores on this important initiative,” says Donna Brownlee, Director of Maternal Child Services at Lakeridge Health. “As a parent, there is nothing worse than having to wait to obtain the care your child requires. Through MAP, we can ensure young people and their families receive the right care, at the right time, in a location that best suits their needs.”

Before entering the program, Hannah’s parents worried their daughter was becoming too dependent on her friends. As a top-honour student and born leader, Hannah was becoming uncharacteristically over-accommodating with her peers and repressing her thoughts and opinions. Hannah and her parents were desperate to find help, but after colliding with a few dead ends they became discouraged.

“When you have a child in need of help, who is requesting help, and the process is prolonged it is very frustrating,” says Michael. Hannah added that once accepted to MAP, she found the process quick and easy.

Psychiatry and social work assessments occur at Ontario Shores, but follow-up services are provided by both facilities so patients can receive continued care at either location and with familiar staff members. Hannah is happy she will continue counselling with one of the social workers who was instrumental in her success throughout MAP.

“Ontario Shores is proud to be part of this progressive program,” says Sheila Neuburger, Vice-President Clinical Services at Ontario Shores. “MAP not only provides youth with the opportunity to receive timely and efficient access to specialized care, but offers counselling and support groups for parents so the whole family can be engaged in the recovery process.”

Hannah’s parents say the parent groups played an important role in their daughter’s recovery. The groups offered insight into Hannah’s situation and reassured them that they were not alone. Her parents were informed of the tools and techniques Hannah was given so they could undertake the process as a family as well as recognize and appreciate Hannah’s independent progress.

“I feel good and noticed a positive change right away,” says Hannah. “This program is a great opportunity for anyone who needs help, to get help. For a long time I was focused on the depression, now I’m focused on life.”