Too many young people are struggling

As many as 1 in 5 children and youth in Ontario will experience some form of mental health problem. 5 out of 6 of those will not receive the treatment they need. That’s because young people living in psychological pain are reluctant to speak up, and 63% cite stigma as the reason. Then, there’s the sheer complexity of the mental health-care system, with well over 1,000 treatment providers, centres and programs for mental illness in Ontario.

Sunnybrook’s Family Navigation Project (FNP) is a free service that pairs youth aged 13 to 26 who have mental health and/or addictions challenges, and their families, with clinically trained navigators who connect them with the services they urgently need. FNP serves families in the Greater Toronto Area.

About the Family Navigation Project

Since 2013 and throughout this pandemic, Sunnybrook’s Family Navigation Project, part of the Hurvitz Brain Sciences Program, has been there to guide families to the right treatments and services for young people with mental illness and addiction.

Team members partner with youth, 13 to 26 years old, and their families to help them navigate the mental health system and related services. This way, families connect to appropriate and credible assessment and treatment resources to get the assistance they need when they need it. Learn more.

Funded entirely by donations

Your support for RBC Race for the Kids is critical. Sunnybrook's Family Navigation Project is funded by generous supporters like you. Your fundraising efforts will have a life-changing impact on youth suffering with mental illness and addiction. By volunteering to collect donations through RBC Race for the Kids, you’re joining a community working together to help youth reach their potential.

Sam's story

When Sam went away to university at age 18, it wasn’t what he expected.

“It seemed like people were loving school. Everyone. All my friends were loving it, and for me, it was a tough time,” says Sam. “I felt like an outsider. I was questioning myself, and when that happens you start thinking you don’t belong.”

After reaching out to his dad, they were able to find support for Sam. Things got better, Sam developed positive coping skills, and he addressed the things in his life that negatively impact his mental well-being.

Then the pandemic hit and impacted the mental health of many. In 2020, almost twice as many youth called FNP for help as the pandemic exacerbated existing stressors and added more. At a stage of life when young people are meant to be socializing, meeting new people, and being more independent, many youth are missing milestones like graduation or prom.

Paige's dog

"I was feeling really low. It got pretty bad, and at that time, I had no real coping mechanisms. I wouldn’t get out of bed, I would start drinking in the morning, I would call my friends and start sobbing because I didn’t know how to cope."

Like many others, Sam has struggled throughout the pandemic. After turning to self-destructive behaviours to cope with everything going on in his life and the world, he reached out for help. His first call with an FNP navigator was a huge help. “It was the first time in a while that I’d spoken to someone about how I was feeling, so I felt an immediate release. It made me realize, I need to see a professional again which was very helpful.” Sam found appropriate support and continues to work on his mental health, thanks to the positive impact of FNP.