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Mental Health in Motion raises $100K+ for mobile youth clinic

'There is always somebody in mind that we care about and love that is affected by mental health or illness. That is why we show up and do this and raise money,' says CMHA CEO

More than 300 people showed up to walk, run, or bike to raise more than $100,000 at this year’s Mental Health in Motion, despite the gloomy weather Sunday afternoon.

The event in support of the Canadian Mental Health Association York Region and South Simcoe mobile youth walk-in clinic and youth programs kicked off at Ray Twinney Recreation Complex in Newmarket with routes that included 60- and 20-kilometre bike rides and a five-kilometre run or walk.

“The rain aside, it was absolutely wonderful,” said Rebecca Shields, chief executive officer for the Canadian Mental Health Association York Region and South Simcoe. “We have had rain for the last few years, unfortunately, on our day, but it has not deterred people from coming, from riding, from showing up for their community, and I think that actually adds an element to it because people make a commitment to be there and do something special despite the weather. It was another successful year.”

The youth mobile clinic, MOBYSS, is a 35-foot RV that serves as a primary care office. It offers youth aged 12 to 25 a free, confidential and safe space to talk to a medical professional, mental health professional, or receive peer support in a confidential and safe environment. The clinic tours high schools in York Region and south Simcoe County to help youth with their mental, physical and sexual health. It can include concerns about anxiety, depression, drugs, alcohol, birth control, sexually transmitted diseases, pregnancy, or any other issues.

“Today, with the rising rates of anxiety and depression in youth, with the challenges of substance abuse, such as cannabis and alcohol that is much easier for kids to access than ever before, we need to be there to make sure that kids who need help have immediate access when they need help,” Shields said.

According to the organization, about one in five children and youth in Ontario has a mental health challenge. About 70 per cent of mental health challenges have their onset in childhood or youth. Early identification and intervention is critical and can lead to improved achievement in school and better health outcomes.

“Seventy per cent of mental illness starts at youth, and like any type of illness, the sooner you catch it and you’re able to treat it, the better the outcomes over time,” said Shields. “We need to give them the immediate access to care they need, and into resources, they need so they don’t lose their education, so they can keep their jobs and move on with their lives.”

Shields said it wonderful to see participants smile with pride as they wear a sign with the name of a family member or friend affected by mental health during their bike ride, run, or walk.

“There is always somebody in mind that we care about and love that is affected by mental health or illness. That is why we show up and do this and raise money. I always say, ‘people do this to make the road a little less hard for the person walking behind’,’” said Shields. 

In Canada, there were 36,708 children and youth hospitalized for mental health disorders and an additional 122,996 children and youth hospitalized for all other conditions in 2020, according to the Canadian Institute for Health Information.

The mobile clinic served 2,500 youth in 2023. Since it launched in 2015, it has served more than 16,000 youth. Shields said she is grateful to the community for its participation in Mental Health in Motion.

“It takes all of us to do this work, and we are so grateful to be a part of the York Region and south Simcoe community,” said Shields.

The organization continues to tabulate all funds raised as donors complete their pledges. It will know the final amount by the end of July. 

“We’ve been doing it for a long time, and we do it because every year, our community comes together from all walks of life because mental health and mental illness touches all,” said Shields.