Free mental health counselling will soon be available for young people
By Chris Lewis | Vol. 32 No. 32 (Oct. 23, 2019)
The Jacob Puddister Memorial Foundation is preparing to open a service it hopes will make significant changes in the lives of Newfoundland’s youth.
The Jacob Puddister Memorial Foundation is an organization with roots in Bay Bulls, Paradise and CBS, that started in August of 2017 – one year following the death of Jacob Puddister, who had struggled with mental health issues for some years.
Its mandate is to provide quality mental healthcare to youth and young adults across Newfoundland and Labrador. So far, the foundation has carried mostly done that work by donating to other organizations that deal with mental health issues.
However, with the upcoming program the foundation hopes to begin in November, its main goal is closer to coming to fruition. That program will provide free mental health counselling to any youth who may need it, starting as early as 12-years-old, right up to young adults.
The services include free counselling, group therapy sessions, the Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training (ASIST) program, among other resources they hope to offer in the coming weeks and months.
Kelsey Puddister is Jacob’s sister, and also a counsellor herself, currently finishing up an internship at the Waterford Hospital in St. John’s. She says she and the other counsellors are currently working on identifying gaps in the province’s mental healthcare system.
“Right now, there’s quite a waiting list for counselling services, and there’s also a huge barrier in the way of money to go to private counsellors – it’s about $100 to $250 per session. So, we recognize that people just are not able to get to the counselling services they need,” she said. “As a foundation, we believe that you need to combat any mental illness from a variety of angles, so having a doctor that you trust, and having a therapist that you trust, and then having a social support system is important. We’re working with what we’ve got to fill that counsellor role for people who just can’t have one right now … especially the youth.”
Puddister added that although the term “youth” is used, the service is open and available for anyone up to the age of 35-years-old.
She says the importance of youth having access to these types of services is paramount, and having someone who can look at their experiences objectively can help them navigate the challenges they may be going through.
“Having that person who’s there to support and guide them through a professional capacity is so important to have, and not a lot of youth in the province have that,” Puddister says. “So, we’re just really trying to fill that gap and be a safe space, while providing resources to youth who need it.”
The various fundraising events put off by the foundation have played a big role in being able to make this goal a reality.
The two biggest fundraisers include Baskets of Hope, which takes place in Bay Bulls, and Shifting Gears in Conception Bay South. Puddister says that this summer, there was approximately $130,000 raised by the two fundraisers.
To Puddister, it was quite obvious where those funds needed to go and, as a result, the fundraiser was able to hire its first employee – a registered counsellor who will be helping organize the programs, and working with the youth who avail of them.
“It’s taken us a few years to get this far, but as far as the decision to provide this free counselling? That was very, very easy,” she said.
Anyone looking for more information can take a look at the foundation’s website at www.shiftinggearsforjake.com.