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 211.ca.

  • 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.