June 21, 2024

Care Nex

Stay Healthy, Live Happy

Lace up to help kids’ mental health with Steps for Kids

3 min read

Young people’s mental health can be a minefield for parents, teachers and medical professionals. Lutherwood has a map to safety.

If you are concerned about the mental health of the children in your family, you are not alone.

Over the past few years, the mental health of children and youth in Canada has been in decline, with an estimated 1.6 million experiencing a mental health disorder as of 2023. 

In the Waterloo Region, local families have somewhere to turn for help. Lutherwood has been supporting families experiencing youth mental health challenges for over 50 years. 

In that time, their services have expanded to holistically meet the needs of those who rely on the organization for support. 

“We’re not just a mental health agency anymore,” explained Alison Willetts, the Director of Operations for Lutherwood Mental Health Services. “We also run programs that address the external factors affecting mental health – such as employment and housing.”

Alison has worked for Lutherwood for 17 years, starting as a volunteer. She has seen a lot of change in the past few years.

“The pandemic has changed the landscape of children’s mental health,” Alison shared. “Poor mental health is more widespread than ever and the complexity has increased.” 

But what is causing an increase in the complexity and number of cases? Alison suggests there are several contributing factors. 

“The covid pandemic meant that children missed out on usual activities, like going to school in-person, during formative years in their lives,” Alison noted. “On top of that, families are under a lot of pressure due to an increased cost of living.”

Looking towards the future, Lutherwood aims to boost the mental health support available in primary care and emergency care settings so that families can access timely and holistic support when they need it most. 

“Historically, mental health and health have been treated as two distinct areas,” Alison explained. “But that is changing.”

In the last few years, Lutherwood Mental Health Services has received funding from the Ministry of Health, bringing new opportunities to collaborate with healthcare providers. 

Now, local doctors’ offices are connected with a Lutherwood mental health professional, empowering physicians with the resources they need for families who describe symptoms of mental health disorders. 

Local emergency rooms also benefit from a partnership with Lutherwood. Here, a Lutherwood Mental Health Coordinator is on call to guide healthcare professionals through crisis moments involving mental health episodes and provide the resources for that patient to move forward. 

“I’m excited about the partnerships we are building with healthcare facilities,” shared Alison. “I believe in a future where we have outstanding mental health support in all doctors’ offices, hospitals and emergency rooms.”

Through their evolving approach to improving mental health services, Lutherwood offers reasons for hope for the future. 

Last year, the organization supported an amazing 14,300 people in the Waterloo Region through mental health, employment and housing programs – and this year they want to help even more.

If you would like to support Lutherwood’s work while having a great day out with family or friends, you can take part in the organizations’ annual fundraising walk, Steps for Kids, on May 5, 2024.

“Steps for Kids offers the best of both worlds with virtual and in-person options,” noted Chris Sellers, Director of Development at Lutherwood Child & Family Foundation.

“And it is a win-win,” Chris continued. “Participants get a chance to socialize and be active outside which supports their physical and mental health, while funds are raised to help children struggling with their mental health.”

You can register or find out more about the walk here. 

If you are concerned about your family’s mental health, find out more at Front Door, a service operated by Lutherwood that connects families and youth with the support they need. You can visit frontdoormentalhealth.com or call 519-749-2932 to learn more.

CambridgeToday is proud to make a difference in our community by highlighting extraordinary individuals and organizations with this Cares feature, a foundational piece of our CambridgeToday Cares Program.

The CambridgeToday Cares team’s mission is to create meaningful change in Cambridge – and inspire others to do the same.


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