Psychological services for youth are often challenging to access; if youth or their caregivers can identify appropriate service options, they can then be expensive, require long waiting periods, or a long distance to travel. Youth who are systematically marginalized—by factors such as socio-economic status, race, culture, gender, sexual orientation—are often least able to access these services and potentially need them the most. Community-based agencies who support marginalized youths rarely have psychologists on staff; in fact, many staff are not even registered health providers or have training in mental health needs. The Youth Psychology Service (YPS) is a student initiative to provide psychological services to youth and those who support them. The program has four goals:
Goal 1: Increase access to psychological services in marginalized populations
Goal 2: Provide psychological services to youth and their family.
Goal 3: Support staff and foster interdisciplinary partnerships
Goal 4: Expand clinical, research, and professional development opportunities for graduate students from either clinical and psychological science streams
YPS is currently partnered with Youth Services at St. Stephen’s Community House, a registered not-for-profit agency (260 August Avenue, Toronto). Operating during the school year (September to June), 8 full-time staff, 4 social service placement students, and 17 peer workers serve over 700 youth (aged 12 to 25 years) from schools and youth criminal courts. Staff operate a drop-in space where approximately 70 youth come daily to receive hot meals and access programs addressing homelessness, unemployment, youth justice, sexual health, racism, and the integration of refugees and immigrants. St. Stephen’s has no mental health providers on staff. Andrew Brankley has volunteered at St. Stephen’s since 2010, developing mental health initiatives.