What services interest me?

Site: CAMH Public Courses
Course: Youth Wellness Quest
Book: What services interest me?
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Date: Wednesday, 29 May 2024, 7:48 PM



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Puzzle Pieces - What

There are many different types of treatment services available. Take a look at what might be right for you.

Throughout the guide, you will come across words such as service provider and service.

A service provider is a licensed health professional. They can provide health care treatment services. Examples of service providers are nurses, social workers, doctors and psychiatrists. To learn more about service providers and people who can help see People who I want support from.

A service is an organization or agency that provides treatment services. Examples of services include agencies, hospitals, crisis centres and peer-support programs.

Something to think about before choosing a service is how often you need the service and the level of support you think you need. Click below to find out more.

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This is a service where you can just drop in during certain hours to see a counsellor. It is a great option for people who want support from a professional, but who don’t really want to talk to someone on a regular basis. It allows you to get help quickly and only when you need it.

If you are interested in walk-in counselling, think about the following questions:

  • What are their office hours?
  • How can I get there? Is transportation provided?
  • Do I need a health card?
  • Will they see me if I am a new patient or client?

You can often find this information online or by calling them and asking!

Having regularly scheduled appointments means that you see a service provider on a regular basis. For example, you might see a counsellor once a week. Sometimes people call these outpatient programs.

If you are interested in regularly scheduled appointments, some things to ask your service provider include:

  • How often can I get an appointment?
  • Is there a limit to how often or how many times I can come?
  • How long is each appointment?
  • Who do I contact if I need to cancel an appointment?
  • Does it cost money to get this service?

Day treatment programs are more structured services that you go to during the day. For example, it could be a school program with treatment built into it, where you would be with other young people who are going through similar experiences as you. Day treatment might interest you if you need more intensive mental health or substance use support. It can also give you the option to complete school credits while getting help. You may be able to move on to less structured support later.

If you are interested in day treatment programs, some things to ask your service include:

  • What courses are offered?
  • Can I get school credits in this program? If so, what school board is working with this program?
  • How long does it usually take to get a credit?
  • What does the daily schedule look like?
  • How many other people are in the program?
A crisis is any situation in which a person’s feelings or behaviours can lead to them hurting themselves or others or being unable to care for themselves.

Some examples of being in crisis include

  • having plans to self-harm or having self-harmed
  • considering or having plans to die by suicide
  • having made an attempt to die by suicide
  • hearing voices that others cannot hear, seeing things that others cannot see, having a hard time knowing what’s real and what’s not
  • experiencing serious side-effects from using alcohol or other drugs, such as:
    • excessive vomiting
    • seizures
    • trouble breathing
    • unresponsiveness.

Sometimes you might need to talk to someone right away. Crisis support is usually a short-term service to use during a crisis or a distressing event. Crisis support can be in-person, over the phone, through text or on a computer chat.

When in a crisis

If you feel that you can't keep yourself or people around you safe, call your local distress centre or crisis line. (Using Google, search for the name of your town and the words "mental health crisis" and call the number that shows up). You can also go to the nearest emergency department or call 911.

Quick tip: It's a good idea for everyone to know a number to call in a crisis. Write it down or put it in your phone so you can find it easily of you ever want it. One example is Kids Help Phone, 1 800 668-6868. Click here for more information about getting help in a mental health emergency www.camh.ca/gethelp

When I was accessing mental health services for the first time, it was too many years too late. By the time I went to my family doctor for help, I was in ‘crisis’, which meant I was at threat to take my own life. I did not know how to advocate for myself and did not understand all the consequences of following some of my doctor's advice. The best thing you can do before accessing mental health services for the first time is to have an understanding of the professional lingo you might encounter and what it could mean for you.
—Anonymous, youth advisor

An inpatient or residential program is a place where people go and stay while getting mental health and/or substance use treatment and support. You may need residential care if you are not able to cope with your symptoms at home and need more support. This involves a higher level of support for people to feel safe, manage their symptoms and receive treatment. They can then get help to go back to living in the community.

Inpatient and residential programs could be located in a mental health hospital, substance use treatment facility or any other place that provides people with treatment and a place to live, too.

If you are interested in inpatient programs, some things to ask your service could include:

  • How long is a typical stay?
  • Who will be giving me support and treatment?
  • Will I be able to sign myself out if I no longer want to be there?
  • What kind of support can I expect after my stay?
  • Will I be able to leave the program during the day (e.g., go for walks, get groceries, visit friends and relatives, etc.).

  Create an account to write notes in your journal.   

What I want the service to offer

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There are many different ways that treatment services are offered. Take a look at what might be right for you. In this section, service providers like “therapist” and “counsellor” are mentioned. See People who I want support from to learn more about their roles.

“One of my barriers as a youth is finding what type of services are available. In my first year of accessing services, I only really knew about the psychiatrist and group therapy. However, I learned about the different types of group therapy, peer support, and support groups. Learning about DBT (dialectical behavioural therapy) was very beneficial to me".
—Anonymous, youth advisor

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Therapy can help people with mental health and substance use challenges. Therapy gives you a space to express your feelings and understand more about the issues you are facing. There are many types of therapies, such as cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT), dialectical behavioural therapy (DBT), mindfulness-based therapy and trauma-informed therapy. It might be helpful to learn more about what type of therapy your service provider offers or which type you feel would work best for you. If you start using one and find that it’s not right for you, you might consider exploring other options, too.

Some questions to ask your therapist may include:

  • What type of therapy do you provide?
  • How does the type of therapy you use work?
  • Tell me about the experiences that you have had working with young people.

See People who I want support from to learn more about different service providers who provide therapy.

One-on-one counselling is exactly what it sounds like: face-to-face sessions with a therapist (or another type of service provider). This type of counselling allows for you to receive one-on-one attention from the therapist, which helps the therapist gain a deeper understanding of your concerns and struggles. When the therapist is able to understand you better, they can also have a better idea of what treatments and services would be beneficial for you (see Therapy section above)

Group counselling is led by a counsellor and takes place with other individuals who are struggling with similar challenges. It can offer a feeling of community and help you realize that you are not the only one having a hard time.

Peer support offers assistance from youth who have had mental health and/or substance use experiences themselves. Peer support workers have had specific training and may be able to provide one-to-one support, facilitate groups, help connect you with other services and more. Peer support can be a service all on its own, or it might be part of a bigger program.

With peer support, you can talk to someone your age who has also gone through similar challenges as you have. For this reason, you may feel more comfortable with this person and this may be able to offer you a feeling of hope.

When you are struggling with something, it may also affect the people around you, like your family. Some organizations offer services for families, too. Support for family members can include education about mental health or substance use, learning skills to support you during treatment and resources and treatment for themselves as well.

There are lots of new options for mental health treatment and support. We’ve got mobile/tablet apps, text and internet chats or online video-based support. Ask the service how they offer their services. For many youth, the biggest concern with online support is privacy. You can try to make it more private by finding a quiet and safe space, wearing headphones or moving to a more private space (e.g., going for a walk outside or scheduling appointments when your family members will not be in the house).

Note: If a service offers online or texting support, you’ll probably want to find out how this is offered and what it involves. For example: care providers who text with their clients usually don’t respond immediately and often won’t respond on weekends—that’s important information to know.

It’s important to know that you may be able to get support at work or school if you are experiencing mental health challenges. These supports can make it more comfortable for you to work and/or study.

If you have a disability, you may also need other types of support, sometimes called accommodations, which can help you receive the treatment you need.

It’s always your choice if you want to tell people about anything you’re going through, like a health condition or disability. It can be helpful for a service provider to know so they can support you better.

If a service provider is unsure about how to support you, then you might want to give them some suggestions or find another service provider. If there is an advocacy agency that relates to your disability (e.g., Brain Injury Society of Toronto), they may know about the types of services in your community that can provide the best support.

A guide has been developed to help post-secondary students through the process of receiving academic accommodations for mental health challenges. You can find the guide online at https://brocku.ca/health-wellness-accessibility/wp-content/uploads/sites/194/English_Accessible_Guide_Accommodating-Students-Handbook_August-7-2015.pdf

If you’re having a hard time finding the right information and support, you may decide to advocate for yourself. Advocating for yourself can be scary, so we have included some tips and examples to help. Keep in mind that this is not a complete list of all experiences

2SLGBTQ+ stands for Two-Spirit, Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans, Queer and Questioning. There are people with special knowledge and training about 2SLGBTQ+ issues who can support you if this is important to you. Try using 2SLGBTQ+ related keywords in your internet searches for a service provider or a service.

It can be helpful to tell someone at a doctor’s office or service agency that you want a service provider with 2SLGBTQ+ knowledge and training. It will help the agency match you with someone who can better understand your experiences.

If this is important to you, you may want to ask your service provider some (or all) of the following questions:

  • Do any of your staff have training on how to best help 2SLGBTQ+ people?
  • Do you know of any good online 2SLGBTQ+ resources or groups?
  • I’m interested in support groups that focus on 2SLGBTQ+ mental health/substance use. Would you be able to help me find groups like this?
  • Do you know of any other agencies that have services specially designed for 2SLGBTQ+ people?

Tips for talking about your gender and sexual orientation to your service provider

Opening up to a doctor or service provider about your personal thoughts and feelings is not easy for anyone. Being 2SLGBTQ+ can make it feel even harder.

You do not have to tell your service provider that you are 2SLGBTQ+, but if you do, they can help you find the right support.

  • Call the agency ahead of time. When you call to make an appointment, ask if the agency has any 2SLGBTQ+ patients or clients. If you’re nervous about asking, remember you don’t have to give them your name during the first call.
  • Bring a friend or family member. If you are feeling nervous about talking with your service provider, you can ask someone you trust, like a friend or family member, to come with you.
  • Tell your service provider your name and pronouns. “My name is _______and my pronouns are (him/her/they, etc.).

If you’re looking for religious/spiritual supports for mental health and substance use challenges, you may be able to find groups or individual services that focus on this.

If this is important to you, you may want to ask your service provider some (or all) of the following questions:

  • Do you offer faith/religious-based services?
  • Are there groups for people who share my religious/spiritual traditions?
  • Are you able to connect me with a health service provider, clergy person, priest, pastor, Elder, rabbi, imam, etc., from my religious/spiritual beliefs who can support me throughout my treatment?

Culture can play a huge role in people’s lives: it can shape our thoughts, our behaviours and our relationships. It can also play a key role in understanding the mental health and substance use challenges people experience and support they need to feel better. Examples of different cultures and experiences include Black, South Asian, Indigenous, refugee and newcomer youth. Because of this, some agencies offer culturally specific services and experiences.

There may be supports in your community that are made for a specific cultural or ethnic group. When searching for a service provider online, try using your own culture or ethnicity and related keywords.

It can be helpful to tell someone at a doctor’s office or service agency that you want a service provider with cultural knowledge and training. It will help the agency match you with someone who can better understand your experiences.

If this is important to you, you may want to ask your service provider some (or all) of the following questions:

  • My identity/background is important to me. Can this be incorporated into the support I receive?
  • What group programs or services are available for young people who share my cultural identity or ethnic background?
  • Are you able to connect me with a person from my cultural background who can support me throughout my treatment?


Autumn is an Indigenous youth who does not think their doctor understands how they feel. They would like to be supported by a service provider who is also Indigenous, as they may understand Autumn’s experiences better and may also be able to offer cultural supports, like Indigenous medicine and teachings, as part of Autumn’s treatment. Autumn asks their doctor to refer them to an Indigenous agency or service provider.


Sarina has recently moved to Canada. She is finding the move hard and is having trouble making friends. She asks her service provider if they could refer her to a Newcomer Youth program, where she may be able to meet other people her age who are going through similar experiences.

Since Canada is full of many different cultures, people speak a variety of languages. If you would prefer to receive services in a language other than English, you can tell your service provider. You can also ask for translation services.

If this is important to you, you may want to ask your service provider some (or all) of the following questions:

  • I’m more comfortable speaking in my first language. Are there services offered in this language?
  • Are there translation services?
  • I require a sign language interpreter who uses American Sign Language (ASL)/Langue des Signes Québécoise (LSQ).
  • Do you have these interpreters on site?
  • If not, how do I get my own interpreter?

  Create an account to write notes in your journal.   

More specific services

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If you have other concerns, you may want to look at specific services.

Click the tabs to view each section.

Your physical health can have a huge impact on your mental health, and vice versa. If you have a long-term physical health condition or a physical injury, such as a broken leg, your mental health can be affected.

When someone’s mental health suffers, their physical health can suffer too. For example, mental health may affect your diet and the amount of exercise you do. Some mental health organizations have connections to family doctors and walk-in medical clinics. If you don’t have a doctor who you see regularly, ask your service provider to help you find one, or see Tips on finding a family doctor.

If you are sexually active or are thinking about becoming sexually active, you should know where to get information, receive birth control and get tested for sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). Although this may seem awkward or uncomfortable, it’s more comfortable than the symptoms of an STD. Let your service provider know if you need help finding a place that offers these services. Many places have sexual health clinics, but you can also get tested at walk-in medical clinics or with your family doctor. If you are concerned about privacy, ask about the policies at the clinic.

Getting a job can be difficult. Making a resume (CV), handing it out to businesses, the interview process and the first few days of a new job are hard! Mental health struggles can sometimes get in the way of getting a job. Many community organizations offer employment services, such as helping you write a resume or practising interview questions with you. Sometimes, these services can give you a list of places that are hiring. If you’re interested in getting help with finding a job, ask your service provider about local resources.

You may wonder if and how you should tell your employer about your mental health or substance use concerns. There are agencies that can help you make this decision as well as help you speak to your employer about accommodations available for you at work. You can get more information in the Support/accommodations for disabilities section. With a little help, you might find that there are supportive workplaces in your community and that your job can be part of your treatment and recovery process.

Taking care of your finances can be confusing, especially if you’re also struggling with mental health or substance use. Financial counselling services are sometimes offered at community organizations. They may be able to help you make a budget and create a plan to pay off debt, among other non-judgmental supports. If this sounds like it could be helpful to you, ask your service provider for resources in your community.

Experiencing any kind of sexual harassment, assault or abuse can have major effects on mental health. Regardless of how many times it happens, how it happens or whether or not it involves physical violence, it’s important to get support. You deserve to feel safe. Sex must be consensual and sexual partners should respect your boundaries. It’s important to know it’s not your fault and you are not alone.

Many mental health professionals are trained in treating victims of sexual violence and can support you. Some communities and university campuses have services that specialize in sexual harassment and assault services. This might include crisis support, counselling and legal help. You can also look for service providers who are trauma-informed or have special training in working with victims of rape, sexual assault or sexual abuse.

If you are involved in the legal system, legal counselling services (or free legal advice) can make a huge difference. Many law firms offer free consultation meetings to discuss your options. There are also legal counselling clinics that are sometimes held in communities. If you are looking for legal counselling, ask your service provider to help you find it.

For some people, becoming pregnant at a young age can be overwhelming and scary. You may have many questions and concerns. Counselling services can help to answer your questions and sort out your feelings. There are many pregnancy and parenting services, including anonymous helplines. Whatever decisions you make along the way, remember that you’re making the best choice you can in what may be a difficult situation.

If you are planning on continuing the pregnancy or you are already a parent, you might also be interested in services that help young parents. These programs include parenting groups, counselling, food banks, alternative schooling, and day care.

When you are not feeling the best, you might not want to do things that you normally enjoy, especially with people who don’t really know or understand what you’re going through. But playing sports, doing fun activities and socializing can be good for your mental health.

Ask mental health and substance use service providers if they run any recreation programs. These might include groups that make art, play games or sports or go for walks, etc. This allows you to go out and do fun activities with people who understand what it’s like to struggle with mental health and/or substance use, which can make things a little more comfortable.

Getting through school is hard enough when you’re feeling healthy—it can be even harder when you’re having difficulties in other areas of your life. Whether you’re looking to complete high school credit courses or post-secondary programs, there are people who can help you. Service providers and guidance counsellors can help you figure out your goals for the future, connect you to primary, secondary or post-secondary school programs (including modified programs for people with mental health challenges) and support you in achieving your goals.

“Skills” programs are also common. Everybody can benefit from skills training, especially if you plan to move out on your own! Although there are many different programs, the point of most skills training programs is to teach you the practical skills needed as an adult, such as budgeting, cooking, time management, specific workplace skills and more. Having these skills can free up energy to focus on your mental well-being!

Self-reflection activity:

This is a self-reflection activity. As you do this activity, you can write down your thoughts on a piece of paper. If you have an account, you can click on the button below to write down your thoughts on a ‘Notes’ page that you can print or save.

Learning a new skill can help you focus on something positive. It can also help you gain new knowledge. Think about some new skills you would like to learn!

It’s become common knowledge that physical health affects mental health. Part of your health is your nutrition and eating. Sometimes people can have complicated relationships with food or have challenges with an eating disorder. If you are thinking about your eating habits and how they may be affecting your health and mental health, talk to your service provider about getting more support with eating habits. You can ask for them to refer you to a doctor, nutritionist or dietician. You can also ask for specific support for young people with an eating disorder.

  Create an account to write notes in your journal.   


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There are lots of medications available for different mental health conditions. Some people will tell you that medication has been the thing that has helped them the most. Others will tell you that medication isn’t for them. There is no right or wrong decision about using medication. You can discuss taking medication with a doctor or psychiatrist (see People who I want support from) so that they can help you decide if it will be a helpful tool for you. Although it is a personal choice, having the opinion of a professional can help you to understand whether medication will be helpful to you.

Here are a few ideas on how to begin the conversation:

  • I’d like to talk about using medication in my treatment. What are your thoughts about that?
  • What kind of medication would be prescribed to me?
  • What would the process of starting to use medication look like?
  • When/how would I start using the medication?
  • How will the medication make me feel?
  • If I start taking medication, will I have to take it for the rest of my life? Will I become dependent on it?

Sometimes, finding a medication and dose that work for you can take a long time. Different people react differently to certain medications, but it can have a great impact if you find something that works for you.

Note: If you are on medication, combining it with therapy can result in greater improvements to your mental health.

Medication and YOUth resource

Check out the Medication for YOUth Resource to learn more about a type of antidepressants called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs).

It is important to be honest with your doctor about any drugs or substances you may be using to understand how they will interact with your medication. If you are worried about confidentiality, see My rights for more information.

If you are using substances, you may want to learn about harm reduction strategies or ways to use substances more safely. You can ask your service provider about harm reduction supports they may offer or search online for harm reduction services available in your community.

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Family doctors (sometimes called general practitioners or GPs) and psychiatrists can provide prescriptions for medications, if that is part of your treatment plan. In some provinces, nurse practitioners can prescribe.

Although family doctors typically don’t specialize in mental health, they can usually provide some form of mental health assessment, diagnosis and referral. Psychiatrists are medical specialists who can provide formal assessment and diagnosis. Please see People who I want support from for more information on service providers and their roles.

If you are open to medication, here are some things to think about:

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1. Cost/coverage

Medication can be expensive. Fortunately, many insurance plans cover some or all of the costs of medication (see Access: Health Insurance in Canada for more information about insurance plans). You may be covered under your parent or guardian, spouse or partner, or under your school if you are a student. Talk to a local pharmacist, or your parent or guardian or family doctor for more information and to see what you are covered for.

Here is a website that lists provincial and territorial public health care program that help cover the costs of medication: www.hc-sc.gc.ca/hcs-sss/pharma/acces/ptprog-eng.php and www.canada.ca/en/health-canada/services/health-cards.html

Another way to cut costs for medication is to purchase the generic version of the drug. Most medications are made in both brand-name and generic forms. Generic simply means that there is no brand name on the medication. You still get the same active ingredient and the medication still works the same way. Ask your doctor and pharmacist if this is an option for you. If this is important to you, you may want to ask your service provider some (or all) of the following questions:

  • Can you prescribe me a medication that is covered by insurance?
  • Is there a generic version of this medication that doesn’t cost as much?

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2. Side-effects

All medications come with a list of possible side-effects. Before taking a medication, it’s important to take a look at the possible side-effects and think about how they might affect you. Some people find it helpful to make a chart or a pros and cons list of the different medications and their possible side-effects. It may be helpful to consider what side-effects are deal-breakers for you.

If this is important to you, you may want to ask your service provider the following questions:

  • Are there different medication options for me?
  • What are most common side-effects of this medication?
  • Who would I talk to about side-effects and other issues?

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3. Responsibilities

If you do decide to use medication, it may be helpful for you and your support team (parents or guardians, friends, siblings, doctors, etc.) to decide who will be helping you in the process. Some areas of responsibility include:

  • dropping off the prescription
  • picking up the prescription
  • remembering to take the medication
  • keeping track of how many pills are left
  • refilling the prescription when necessary
  • watching for any side-effects
  • keeping a record of the medications you’ve tried.

Some people don’t want to use medication in their treatment. Sections What I want the service to offer and More specific services provide information about other types of support that are available instead of medication or in addition to medication.

Some people may also be interested in using natural supplements. Natural supplements include things like nutritional support or herbal supplements. Some herbal supplements can interact with medications, you should discuss them with your doctor. Doctors can give you the information that you need and help you to make a thoughtful decision.

Key messages:

  • There are different types of services available. If you have tried something and it does not work for you, there are many more options out there!
  • Therapy gives you a space to express your feelings and understand more about the issues you are facing. There are many types of therapies. If you start using one and find that it’s not right for you, you might consider exploring other options.
  • There is no right or wrong decision about using medication. You can discuss taking medication with a doctor so they can help you decide if it will be a helpful tool for you.

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Play the Quest: Optional Activity

How to play:

Read the five sections: What, Who, How, My Rights and Self-help. At the end of each module, a word will be shown.

To finish the quest:

At the end, combine the words you’ve discovered to reveal a final message.

  Create an account to write notes in your journal.