GUELPH-WELLINGTON – Compass Community Services Guelph-Wellington is one of the few, if not the only, local community service organization that provides free, same day and no-referral-needed mental health counselling for Wellington residents, with a small fee for people from Guelph.
Every Monday, Compass CSGW provides free, virtual or in-person quick access sessions to those living in Mount Forest or surrounding areas, as well as every Thursday for those living in Fergus. Wednesday is Guelph's turn.
“We’ve been running these quick-access clinics in Fergus and Mount Forest for four years now and it’s free of charge; it’s a single session. Basically, you call us either on Monday or Thursday and we’ll set the appointment up on the same day as you called in,” explained Joanne Young Evans, executive director of Compass CSGW, in a phone interview.
“On Mondays, it’s 9:30 a.m. until 3 p.m., and on Thursdays, it’s 1:30 p.m. until 7 p.m. You can either walk in or do it virtually, and the psychotherapist who’s there will see clients for about 50 minutes and they walk out with a plan. Guelph's services are on a sliding scale starting at $15 as the funding is different. Obviously, not everyone can make it for these days or times, so we also provide single sessions. You just call in and say I want to do counselling on this day and we'll do it.”
Compass' mission is to provide responsive and professional resources, fostering the well-being of Guelph-Wellington residents. One of its main goals is to provide cheap, accessible mental health services especially in places like the county where mental health resources are lacking.
“When I first started, I talked to a couple of people about opening up a quick access walk-in clinic in the north, which is Wellington County, because I know that there wasn’t a service like that up there and resources for these residents are severely limited," she said.
"When we did the pilot project for the quick access service four years ago, it was very successful. A lot of people used it and it just goes to show how badly Wellington County residents needed this resource.”
Young Evans noted that of the people who use their quick access service, 20 per cent are those who identify as women and have experienced or are experiencing some sort of abuse – whether that is emotional, financial or physical.
Roughly 40 per cent are what they consider a “serious occurrence," which is someone who has either attempted to end their life through suicide, thinking of ending their life or conducted self-harm.
“Self-harm can take a number of avenues such as cutting or abuse of drugs or alcohol or a number of other things. That’s a pretty significant amount and that has remained overly steady since I’ve been here, which is seven years long,” she explained.
“We also offer a stress line, and it runs seven days a week for 14 hours a day, and it’s completely confidential. The number of people who call in weekly who want to end their life and cannot carry on anymore, those numbers are rising. We handle around 2,500 calls a month on those lines.”
On top of its quick-access sessions, Compass offers four different telephone services that county residents can use:
- Distress Line, which is where if residents want to call in and talk to someone, volunteers are available seven days a week, 14 hours a day
- TeleConnect line, which is a unique service where local community members can improve their social connection by receiving a daily phone call from a trained volunteer
- Seniors offering support, which is a free telephone visiting service for isolated seniors
- LGBTQ+ support line, where residents can call or text and Compass’ trained volunteers and staff will provide free and confidential emotional support and referrals to community resources.
"Crises doesn’t wait and if you need to talk to someone right away, there’s nowhere else that offers this kind of service. Otherwise, you’d need to get a referral from your doctor and there may or may not be a waitlist,” said Young Evans.
“This offers a confidential service where people can go and talk about their challenges they’re experiencing, they can be given a plan and they can be given hope. Over 90 per cent of the people who walk out of a single session, say that they’ve been given hope and been given something to look forward to and work on.”