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Navigating the Mental Health System

Dealing with the mental health care system isn't easy. You're not alone! Learn from other youth that have navigated the system.

If you feel something isn't quite right with your mental health, the best 1st step may be seeing your family doctor.

Don't have a family doc? A walk-in clinic can help assess your situation & provide referrals for mental health services etc. too.

Mood tracking (paper or app) can be helpful to bring to appts. esp. when a doctor is getting to know your patterns.

Usually a referral is needed for psychiatrists or specialized services. For general therapy you typically just need yourself! 

If you're in University or College, counselling fees are often included in your tuition. Look into what's covered!

Had a bad experience with service providers? Don't give up! Keeping looking until you find the right fit, they're out there!

Provincial health insurance covers services provided by psychiatrists, you can find "talk" therapists who are covered too!

For info about Mental Health & Addiction services near you & to connect with them use ConnexOntario's chat or helpline.

Some employers provide Employee Assistance Plans that offer free short-term counselling for employees & their immediate family.

Volunteer with a Mental Health organization. While helping others you can learn abt local services & meet helpful contacts.

While you wait for services write a safety contract with someone you trust & let them know what helps keep you safe.

If you're receiving therapy in ON that's not covered by insurance & struggling to pay, look into ODSP & OW.

If you have a friend or loved one seeking help, be patient & know that it can take time. Be there for them when you can.

Dial 211 to find out about or get connected to community, health & social services across Canada. Or visit

Don't let the name fool you, Kids Help Phone serves up to 20yr olds! Or there's Good2Talk, specifically for youth in post-secondary.

Reach out to a friend or family member. If one has been unsupportive, keep trying. You'll find an ally who will help.

Look into support groups in your community, you can learn from fellow members how they worked through challenges in the system.

If you find yourself hospitalized, speak to an onsite 'lawyer for patients rights' to protect yourself and your rights.

Know that what works for someone else may not for you. Likewise, what didn't work for someone else may work for you!

Make a crisis plan! As you wait for the right support it's key to identify tools to help cope in the meantime.

Ask your doctor or MH worker about seeking case management services for help with access to other social services & system navigation.

Think you've received a wrong diagnosis? Trust your instincts & get a 2nd (or 3rd) opinion, make sure you get proper treatment.

Seek out peer support programs so you can connect with others, gain valuable insight & you might learn from their experience.

Identify 3 people that you know you can call/text if you are in crisis and need support. Have their #'s on your phone.

If you're looking into a residential treatment facility, get on the wait list ASAP. The wait can be a year or more!

Don't be afraid to ask someone to help YOU get help. It can be exhausting to navigate & advocate for yourself when struggling.

Most hospitals have a patient delegate who can speak on your behalf if you have concerns or conflict related to your care.

If you're interested in sharing your personal story, watch Top 10 Tips for Sharing Your Story - created by youth!

There are crisis centres open 24hrs/day. Suicidal thoughts? Find someone to talk to! Canadian numbers here.

Be open to new treatment options. They may not be what you had in mind, but could really have a positive impact for you.

Wait times can be long & then sometimes that particular help doesn't work out. Remember, you still need help & you're still worthy.