Local News News Walkerton Herald-Times

WES for Youth Online launches 2020 Fill The Smile campaign

WES for Youth Online has launched their 2020 Fill The Smile campaign, with a goal of raising $350,000 this year to help provide free counselling to more than 1,000 new youth this year. (Contributed Photo)

WALKERTON – A local organization is looking to reduce wait times for community mental health services this year and are turning to the public to help them do so.

In a press release, WES for Youth Online said a recent report from Children’s Mental Health Ontario (CMHO) states that 28,000 children and youth are currently waiting for mental health and addiction services, an increase from 12,000 children and youth recorded in 2017.

Earlier this month, WES for Youth Online launched their 2020 Fill The Smile fundraising campaign, with the intention of the campaign to raise money to fund free, online counselling for youth in 2020.

The organization has set a goal of providing free, online counselling to over 1,000 new youth this year. Officials for WES for Youth Online say the cost of one hour of online counselling for the organization is approximately $160, up from $100 an hour when the group first started. Other financial needs the organization faces are outreach and awareness, platform and licensing fees, and cyber insurance.

In order for WES for Youth Online to meet their 2020 goal of helping 1,000 youth, the group has set a fundraising goal of $350,000 for the Fill The Smile campaign.

WES for Youth Online officials say that the findings of the CMHO report came as no surprise to them, as the demand for free online counselling has increased by 20 per cent over last year.

“Our youth need our help more than ever before and are coming to us openly with their concerns. In the month of January, we saw 53 new youth register for our service-the largest monthly intake we have had to-date,” said Jennifer Mulcaster, executive director of WES for Youth Online, in the press release.

Amongst several key findings, CMHO’s report concluded that the average wait time to receive counselling and therapy is 67 days. WES for Youth Online ensures that youth are in contact with their assigned counsellor within 24-48 hours of registration.

Mulcaster stated that while much progress has been made in the mental health field, there is still much work to be done. She also thanked WES for Youth Online corporate partners for their continued support of their efforts.

“We have been extremely fortunate to receive financial support from our corporate partners, RBC Foundation and Unifor Trade Union, who have been instrumental in our on-going efforts to support youth through this initiative. We hope that we can continue this momentum with the support of our dedicated community members and beyond,” said Mulcaster.

For more information about WES for Youth Online and the Fill The Smile campaign, visit https://wesforyouthonline.ca or call 519-507-3737.