With the ongoing COVID-19 crisis, teenagers throughout Toronto have been interacting less with each other, experiencing mental health deterioration, and encountering more difficulties with finding volunteer opportunities. Many organizations, such as Flemingdon Health Centre (FHC), are opening programs this winter to help support youth around the community. Four programs will be offered from January 2022 to March 2022: Tutor Me Please, Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT), Flemingdon/Thorncliffe Women’s Youth Group (WYG), and Bike to the Future.

“For me, it’s all about developing programs that will be able to address needs in the community and fill the gaps,” said Cassandra De Freitas, a registered social worker at FHC. She is a community health worker for youth aged 13 to 29.

Tutor Me Please is a free service that will be run virtually. Teacher’s College students will support students Grade 10 and under across all subjects. Bike to the Future, with Gateway Bike Hub, is offering full-service biking lessons. Participants will learn about a wide variety of topics including bike mechanics, environmental impacts, and safety checks. The program also targets common issues such as bike theft. Cass stated that they are hoping to do some biking at the end of the program in March, weather permitting.

Cass, Community Health Worker at FHC

Furthermore, the Flemingdon/Thorncliffe Women’s Youth Group, which used to be called Outside the Box, works with youth who identify as female aged 14 to 17, as these transitional years are tough to get through for many people. It will cover different programming that youth have expressed interest in, from art classes to discussions on dating, sexual reproductive health, and rights. The program is looking to hire two youth female-identifying facilitators, as well, who will be paid $20 per hour. The job posting will come out the week of January 10, on the FHC website.

According to another worker, Cass added, “Two—or three—years ago, before COVID, 30 girls came in. It was basically a pizza party, and then everyone was just talking about what they wanted to talk about. One week they would talk about nail art, the next, they were talking about depression.”

Dialectical Behaviour Therapy will be offered through SickKids Hospital, which will facilitate the program. A lot of youth in the area need access to mental health services but are unable to acquire them due to cost and location barriers. Services provided by the Ontario Health Insurance Plan (OHIP) often result in long waiting lists. The DBT program will allow people from ages 16 to 18 to receive proper mental health services, and there will be a maximum of ten participants in a group setting.

Most of the programs have not been significantly affected by COVID-19, besides having been adjusted to run online and to address the needs of the current state of the community. For example, DBT is being offered to teenagers, as it has been found that such services are harder for older youth to access.

People who are interested in attending the FHC winter programs will need to sign up—refer to the below infographics—and will be asked to fill out some basic information, such as email addresses. Weekly reminders with virtual join-links will be sent out to participants’ emails before each meeting.

To sign up for the winter youth programs at FHC, refer to the infographic and QR code above.

Besides the winter programs, FHC will also be running the Youth Violence Prevention project. Zach, the Youth Violence Prevention Coordinator, said, “I am assisting in creating programs aimed at improving community capacity and creating environments in which youth can live, learn, work, and play in nurturing and positive environments.” There will also be more youth programs offered in March.

Zach, Youth Violence Prevention Coordinator at FHC         

Cass and FHC would like to hear from students before designing other youth programs and supports. Students can fill out a survey to indicate preferences for involvement in FHC and to learn about volunteer opportunities, violence prevention, events, consultation, employment, and more.

To fill out the survey regarding future programs and supports, please refer to the infographic and QR code above.

Finally, concerning the ongoing pandemic, Cass encouraged students of MGCI to ensure they are looking out for themselves and their loved ones. “In the COVID era, it is very easy to see issues and people fall through the cracks. Use your voice to advocate for yourself and one another. Ensure you are taking advantage of all of the opportunities available to you, and reach out when you need help. It is okay to ask for help!”

To learn more about Flemingdon Health Centre, visit https://www.fhc-chc.com/.

To contact Cassandra De Freitas (Cass), call 647-462-9789 or email [email protected]

To learn about exciting volunteer opportunities at FHC, visit https://www.fhc-chc.com/get-involved/volunteer/. Refer to the infographic below for the volunteer sign-up form.