Supporting Young Minds: Child and Youth Mental Health Day in Ontario 2024

Posted on Tuesday, May 7th, 2024


The mental well-being of our children and youth is essential. As we mark Child and Youth Mental Health Day in 2024, it is a time to pause, reflect, and unite in support of our youngest citizens. This year, let us celebrate progress, acknowledge challenges, and recommit to fostering environments where every child and youth can thrive emotionally. 

The Maplewoods Centre for Family Therapy and Child Psychology serves as both a clinic and training hub, dedicated to delivering top-tier therapy services to individuals and families within Guelph-Wellington and beyond. Collaborating closely with the Department of Psychology and the Department of Family Relations and Applied Nutrition at the University of Guelph, Maplewoods also serves as a hub for clinical research endeavors. One stream of research lies within clinical psychology, aiming to broaden our comprehension and improve services tailored to children and families. 

The "Big Feelings" study, a CIHR-funded clinical trial, delves into children's emotions in therapy. Spearheaded by Dr. Kristel Thomassin at the University of Guelph's Child Emotion and Mental Health Lab, this research also engages Dr. Andrew Hamilton-Wright from the University of Guelph, alongside Dr. Brendan Andrade and Dr. Madison Aitken from the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health. It is conducted simultaneously at Maplewoods Centre and CAMH, offering a comprehensive exploration of therapeutic interventions.

Dr. Kristel Thomassin, Ph.D., C.Psych, is an Associate Professor and Registered Clinical Psychologist. Her research focuses on children's emotional development examining how family dynamics influence the development of children's emotional skills, both in constructive and problematic ways, and the significance of these skills in understanding child psychological issues.   

“Big Feelings” is focused on closely monitoring children during therapy to understand exactly how they respond to treatment. “By doing this, we can understand why children and their families respond differently to therapy...The goal is to use this knowledge to make informed decisions about ways to maximize the effectiveness of our interventions,” said Thomassin. 

Long-term, the hope is that knowledge gained from this project will inform decision-making about how to allocate precious mental health resources in an overburdened mental healthcare system. Thomassin said she is glad we can reflect on child and youth mental health, but these reflections and discussions should occur regularly. “Now more than ever, children, youth, and families are really struggling. There are insufficient mental health resources, wait times are long, and something needs to change.” 

In line with Maplewoods' vision, the University of Guelph's Child Emotion and Mental Health Lab stands as a key contributor to Maplewoods' integration into the Guelph community. Offering therapy services to families, training for future mental health professionals, and conducting research, initiatives like these bolster Maplewoods' significance. 

The Maplewoods Centre provides a diverse array of services, spanning from children and adolescents to relational and adult therapy groups. Through efforts like the 'Big Feelings' study and the ongoing work of organizations such as the Maplewoods Centre, concrete strides are being made to prioritize and support the mental well-being of our youth. 

Let us continue these vital conversations and actions, ensuring that mental health remains a cornerstone of our collective agenda, today and every day. 

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