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Tight economy takes a toll on mental health, service providers

The Edify Centre in Orangeville asked town council for immediate financial assistance.

Sonia McDonald, a facilitator and counsellor at the Edify Centre on Broadway, and Brian McFadden, the centre’s head coach, lobbied for some help in these tight economic times during council’s regular meeting Nov. 27.

According to its website, the centre’s staff works to build a more resilient community by creating awareness about mental health issues, suicide, and self-care practices.

They offer evidence-informed mental health and suicide prevention workshops and empower people with strength and confidence through a physical focus program.

“We know that we all have mental health and some of us struggle with our mental health,” McDonald said.

She said recent research indicates Canadians’ mental health is worsening due to the rising cost of living. Canadians affected by inflation are experiencing higher self-rated anxiety, depression, and suicidal ideation.

Since the pandemic there’s been higher rates of mood disorders.

“We’re seeing an enormous rise in mental health concerns, post-pandemic,” she said.

In Canada, as many as 12 people a day are lost to suicide.

“And that’s something that we’re dealing with at the centre quite often,” McDonald said.

The Edify Centre has made many community connections over the last five years, she said. Financially, that’s led to contributions from fundraisers conducted by local small businesses and individuals. But those businesses, organizations, and individuals have been similarly impacted by the pandemic and its inflationary fallout.

“Our biggest challenge is the limiting parameters in grant writing because we are not a not-for-profit,” McDonald said. “We’re a very unique but essential service in our community.”

The centre’s rent, with a recent move to a new space, has essentially doubled to $5,597 a month. The pay $520 a month for utilities and $300 for supplies and materials essential for clients.

McDonald said the Edify Centre and its clients need council’s help to keep operating. They’ve already been turned down by the upper tier council at Dufferin County and other small enterprise grant providers.

“We’re in a position that we desperately felt the need to approach council for some support,” she said.

Councillor Joe Andrews asked for clarification in what the Edify Centre dubs to be its “non-clinical approach.” There are as many as 16 other counselling services in Orangeville and area.

“What is different between what you do and they do?” Andrews said.

“We feel that our service is extremely different because we are very person-centred, first of all,” McDonald said. “We have a variety of different practitioners in our space.”

The Edify Centre benefits from not being a non-profit operation.

“In my long experience working in not-for-profit (services), sometimes the limitation become a barrier for service,” she said, and added that they can provide counselling to people beyond the age of 18 years.

The cut-off for some non-profit services is 18 years. Then the individual has to find other help, she said.

“That is a big part of what makes us different,” she said. “Also, we don’t have waiting lists so the more demand, the more team members we bring on, and the more we can respond to service.”

McFadden said there’s something for everybody at The Edify Centre.

Heather Savage, the town’s general manager of community services, suggested McDonald and McFadden consider relocating The Edify Centre to the former train station on Town Line. That facility is vacant.

And, she said, there’s space at the Alder Street arena that may be able to accommodate their service.

Savage offered to work with The Edify Centre staff toward a solution.

“It sounds like there are a few options here that we can pursue and work with you,” Deputy Mayor Todd Taylor said.

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James Matthews, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Orangeville Citizen