Same-day mental health appointments on offer

Ken Kellar

A new program in Fort Frances is hoping to offer a vital service to those in need.
Riverside Community Counselling, in collaboration with the Family Health Team at the Fort Frances Clinic, began offering same-day mental health services to those who are experiencing acute mental health situations at the beginning of this month.
Jillian Langtry, a mental health counsellor with Riverside Community Counselling, said that the program is offered as a one-off service to those 18 or older who might not otherwise have a place to go for their mental health needs.
“Basically it has to be an acute situation,” Langtry said.
“So it has to be one single incident. That could look like feelings of being overwhelmed, sadness, anxiety, panic, having a hard time coping, or needing someone to talk to,” she added.
There are currently four 45-minute long sessions offered each week, one at 4 p.m. and another at 5 p.m. on both Tuesday and Wednesday. Anyone who wants to attend one of the sessions is required to contact Riverside Community Counselling at 274-4807 between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. to book one of that day’s appointments.
The sessions are held at the Fort Frances Clinic, and each client is required to check in with the Family Health Team before they meet with the counsellor.
Langtry explained that the service is not meant to replace long-term mental health programs, instead likening it to going to the Emergency room for a broken bone as opposed to a regular check up with a family doctor.
“It’s a way like that, where it doesn’t cancel out primary continuing mental health care,” Langtry said.
“It gives them an option when they aren’t seeing someone for a few weeks, or they’re having a really hard time in the moment,” she added.
The service is not a walk-in mental health clinic, as the program does not have the capacity to operate in the way a traditional walk-in does. Neither is it meant to replace emergency services if someone is struggling with thoughts of self-harm.
Langtry said that the team at Riverside Community Counselling had been talking about offering a program for some time, noting that there aren’t currently any similar programs in place to provide same day mental health assistance.
“We’re kind of in a day where mental health is on the rise and I think people are looking for help and looking for services quickly,” said Langtry.
“In general, mental health is so stigmatized in any area, so . . . this can be a really beneficial service for people that are really struggling in the moment,” she added.
Langtry said that she thinks part of the rise in people seeking out mental health support through counselling and programs like this one, or walk-ins in other places, is an increased societal awareness of what constitutes mental health.
“People can finally understand that, ‘Hey, this is anxiety,'” she said.
“Before, people didn’t even know what that was and so I think more people are aware of what’s going on and . . . are reaching out more, and I think that’s really powerful and helpful,” noted Langtry.
Langtry noted that the same-day appointments are also a good opportunity for people who may be unsure if counselling is something they’re interested in long term.
“We have a lot of people that are on the fence and are worried about what other people might think, so this is a way that people can kind of see what it’s like,” she said.
“Some people only need a session to help them get some skills and some coping mechanisms, so this is a really good way for people to know if counselling is what they want to do,” added Langtry.
The program is currently in its infancy, and is being regarded as a sort of pilot project to determine if there is demand in the district for this type of service.
“It’s hopeful that eventually something like this can run with more counsellors and it could actually be a service in the area that would run long term,” Langtry said.
“I think in a small community we have limited resources, so the hope is to maybe partner with other agencies and be able to have a walk-in mental health clinic in the future, and to hire people to do that and have that service,” she added.
For now, the same day scheduled appointments are planned to run through to the end of the year, at which point the program’s success will be evaluated. Langtry said she hopes that the service will see use, not only to help ensure its continued existence, but to help people in distress get assistance they might otherwise go without.
“I think it’s a really beneficial service, I can’t stress it enough,” she said.
“I hope people will be able to access it more and there’s more awareness in the community about it. It’s definitely needed because there are a lot of people wanting help with mental health. It’s something that just keeps growing,” added Langtry.