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Young woman visiting mental health professional. Girl feeling depressed, unhappy and hopeless, needs assistance.

New mental health project launches in West Niagara

The West Niagara Mental Health (WNMH) team at Hamilton Health Sciences (HHS) is launching a research project to help healthcare providers support youth and young adults with mental health issues.

The goal of the project is to enable an evidence-based community approach to youth depression and anxiety disorders. The project will give practitioners, who already serve this population, a flexible and known treatment approach to address mental health challenges that youth may be experiencing.

The research project provides training to participating organizations in an evidence-based treatment for depression and anxiety using Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). Part of the project also provides treatment plans, further training, and resources through an innovative software called WILLOW, developed by Evidence-Based Practice Institute. WILLOW provides video instruction, handouts, and depression/anxiety measurement tools as well as self-management/self-treatment tools for those receiving treatment.

“it has proven success with giving community providers the tools they and their patients need”

“We decided to use the WILLOW platform because it has proven success with giving community providers the tools they and their patients need,” says Christopher Conley, senior clinical specialist at HHS’ West Niagara Mental Health and principal investigator on the project. “We wanted to ensure that it would be effective and simple for multiple different community providers to follow the treatment plans. Plus, the patient interaction element in WILLOW is a great way to empower patients to be involved in their treatment.”

The project gained traction when GBF Community Services committed to provide funding. Since GBF Community Services assists members of the West Niagara community to meet their basic needs, they see first-hand the impact of mental health issues. Both GBF Community Services and WNMH recognized the need for an effective approach to mental health services for the 13 to 25 age group.

“The idea of supporting a mental health project in our community received a unanimous vote from our Board of Directors so we spent many months looking for the most efficient conduit to success,” says Stacy Elia, executive director, GBF Community Services, who worked collaboratively with GBF Community Services mental health chair, Tom Beach. “When we began discussing this research project with West Niagara Mental Health and the LHIN (Local Health Integration Network), it fit so clearly with our core principles that we knew we found the best way to make a difference in our community.”

ensuring the project can continue to grow to best suit the needs of the community

The funding supports the development and evaluation of the project. Data will be collected over the course of a year to evaluate the implementation process for the participating community providers. The project team can then determine if adjustments are needed. This will ensure the project can continue to grow to best suit the needs of the community.

There are currently 10 organizations participating in the project, including Niagara Region Public Health, Gillian’s Place, Grimsby Life Centre, Pathstones and multiple medical practices. Currently, training is complete and they are ready to begin implementing the program with patients.