LONDON, ONT. -- King’s University College psychology students have partnered with Youth Opportunities Unlimited (YOU) to design a mental health roadmap, to help transition-aged youth (TAY) across the region access more mental health resources. 

“There is a mental health crisis right now in the transition-aged youth in London, that means ages16-25. They’re really struggling with mental health specifically with the transition from the child mental health care system to adult mental health care system,” says psychology student Olivia Kerr.

Psychology for the Common Good is a fourth-year psychology course at King's that provides students with the opportunity to create research-based applications to better the London community.

This year, four psychology students, Marissa Dias, Olivia Kerr, Kristin Legault and Cassandra Newall chose the topic of TAY, after experiencing their own mental health struggles amid the pandemic.

“I am really passionate, we are all passionate about this project because a lot of us have personally experienced difficulties with the transition-aged mental health system,” says Newall.

To remedy the transition, the group has created roadmaps, one for youth themselves and one for care providers of the youth.

London Mental Health Services Roadmap
London Mental Health Services Roadmap

“The transition is particularly difficult for this age group because they are experiencing a lot of stresses at the time, school…transitions for high school to university, living alone for the first time and mental health is interwoven into all those aspects,” says Kerr.

Kerr says that one immediate problem for TAY in London, is the lack of awareness of existing services.

The second is lack of specific program for this specific age demographic.

“We decided to create roadmaps to address the more immediate problem of not having enough knowledge of services, and we created a best practices document to outline what a program ideally would look like if it were created in London.”

The program the group is proposing consists of eight items, including transition support workers, culturally sensitive staff and centralization of services, which would put things like health care, mental health and housing services all in the same spot to help with accessibility.

“This age group is near and dear to our hearts, I am 21 the rest of the group is in their 20s, so we understand this problem first hand…we think it's important to address these issues,” says Kerr.

Tyler Paget, employment team leader at YOU, an organization that creates wrap-around supports for youth in the region, has been working with the King's group members to provide youth with their roadmaps.

“Over the past year with COVID-19 we have seen a rising number of youth reaching out to us for support…so having a roadmap for youth to access that provides them with not only location, services, but a lot of information about barriers like food security, it is really valuable to us.”

King's University College in London Ont.
King's University College in London Ont. on March 24, 2021. (Jordyn Read/CTV London)

“I am very proud of my students, they are inspirational especially in a pandemic year, they have provided a lot of hope for the future,” said Dr. Marcie Penner, associate professor of psychology at King's.

The students in the course will be presenting their projects virtually to a community panel on April 8, and the community is welcome to attend.

Panel members will award the Agnes Penner Prize to the project with the greatest potential to benefit society.

“The students who have received it in the past have gone to do great things…students take this course because they want to use the knowledge and the skills that they have gained from psychology to make a difference in the community.”