program statistics

In May 2019, we surveyed frontline staff as well as participants enrolled in the mental health services program to learn about their perceptions and experiences with the program.

  • 82% of staff agreed or strongly agreed that due to the mental health therapist, participants have better access to mental health supports.
  • Participants indicated that after visiting the mental health therapist, they personally saw improvements in the following areas:
    • 83% – relationship issues
    • 75% – anxiety
    • 67% – depression
  • 75% of participants who visited the mental health therapist saw her more than seven times between September 2018 and June 2019.

Dr. Chandra Ashton’s office at Braemar School is a welcoming space with soft lighting, comfy chairs and bookcases filled with colourful children’s and young adult books. The spatial design considerations are no accident — as our mental health therapist, it’s important that she creates a safe, comfortable space for Terra participants who meet with her.

Chandra is a Canadian Certified Counsellor with expertise in trauma, child and youth development and attachment — the emotional bond between child and caregiver. She joined the team in 2017, and over the past two years she has provided individual and couples counselling, reduced barriers to accessing mental health services and identified the overall mental health needs of Terra teen parents. She most commonly supports participants with trauma, relationship issues, grief and loss, anxiety, depression, family violence and addictions.

In just two years, her work has resulted in a culture shift at the agency and at the school. “One of the things we’re noticing specifically from participants, and even staff, is a willingness to talk about mental health,” explains Chandra. “Staff and participants are having conversations about it and accessing resources.”

One participant says, “Before coming to Chandra, there was no chance that I would have accessed mental health supports. Now I can’t imagine my life without them.”

One factor contributing to this culture shift, especially for participants, is access to services. Traditional mental health support often comes with steep hourly rates, strict no-show policies and caps to the number of appointments individuals can make. Mental health services at Terra are free, participants can cancel with no implications and they can see Chandra as frequently as they need. Not only that, but services are provided onsite. For participants at Braemar School, that means help is available just down the hallway, and for participants in other programs at the agency, such as Housing Support Services, Family Outreach or Services for Young Dads, Chandra meets them at any Terra location or in the community.

Though many barriers have been eliminated, Chandra also acknowledges some of the challenges: an overwhelming caseload and recognition that there are some mental health needs that we simply can’t meet at Terra. The agency addressed both challenges in June 2019, by securing funding to contract a part-time mental health therapist as well as a part-time child and adolescent psychiatrist with expertise in working with individuals who experience addictions and mental health issues simultaneously, which is often the case for our participants.

Psychiatrists are medical doctors who have authority to write prescriptions — this is significant for Terra, as it allows us to offer a more complete spectrum of in-house mental health services for participants. “Many of our youth are using illicit substances or alcohol, marijuana or cigarettes prior to their pregnancies,” explains Chandra. “Then they get pregnant and quit abruptly. Even those who are on medication for mental health illnesses quit because they don’t have long-term relationships with family practitioners and don’t know what’s safe to take while pregnant. Now we’ll have someone who can help us with that.”

After examining where gaps exist and adapting our mental health services to serve participants in ways that meet their needs through effective, quality care, this program is making a difference. We look forward to seeing the impacts of our increasingly comprehensive mental health services program.

Pictured above: Dr. Chandra Ashton, Mental Health Therapist