South Island Centre’s youth counsellor Jenny Schoenberger and fundraising manager Greg Cummings rock out with kids props in the centre’s youth and children counselling room. The non-profit South Island Centre is hosting its biggest fundraiser of the year, the fifth annual South Island Centre Gala at the Oak Bay Beach Hotel, 7 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 19. The gala features local teen rock band Tuesday’s Roadkill. (Travis Paterson/News Staff)

Demand for youth, child counselling spikes in Victoria

Oak Bay gala a crucial support for youth counselling

They saw a demand for youth counselling, created a dedicated program, and now the non-profit South Island Centre for Counselling and Training can’t keep up with the wait list.

Recognizing the need to increase the number of minors seen, the centre created its Children and Youth program in 2016.

Since then, Telus also stepped up with a $20,000 grant, and it’s all been a shot in the arm, says South Island Centre spokesperson Greg Cummings. The centre is now gearing up for its annual fundraising event, the South Island Centre Gala at Oak Bay Beach Hotel on Oct. 19, its biggest fundraiser of the year.

“The goal with children and youth counselling is to identify and work out problems or issues before they become severe,” Cummings said.

READ MORE: Big bash in works for little known counselling centre

Since 2016, with the launch of its Children and Youth (CAY) program, more than 100 young clients have received counselling at the centre, from just three CAY counsellors. An additional 1,500 people — family, friends, extended family, peers, teachers — were positively impacted by the mental health support provided to these young clients.

The centre’s focus on youth is in line with the province’s Pathway to Hope, a 10-year vision for mental health and addictions care that gets people the services they need early on.

Exactly one year ago, the South Island Centre brought in Jenny Schoenberger as a specialized child and youth counsellor. In that time she has worked with 29 children and youth, around 38 parent and guardians, and three independent adults, with a current caseload of 26 minors. She is one of two full time, and one part time staff, that work with youth, compared to previously, when there was only a few minors seen through the centre.

“I work through a family system perspective which basically means everyone in a family affects one another — children affect parents and parents affect children — so while most of my work happens one-on-one with children and youth, I often meet parents one-on-one, and sometimes bring parents into a child or youth’s session,” Schoenberger said.

The work means collaborating with school teachers, social workers, and other key people in the lives of the children and youths she sees.

Not all of Schoenberger’s youth clients are shy, in fact, three of them are taking the stage to perform on stage at the Oak Bay Beach Hotel.

“One is 7 and she will sing, and another is 14 and will perform her own song,” Schoenberger said.

The third youth is a 10-year-old boy who already has a budding YouTube presence and will take that experience to the stage.

Local teenage band Tuesday’s Roadkill will perform a set and the evening will also feature a keynote delivery by Jon Williams, disc jockey at the Zone 91.3FM, sharing his struggles with mental health early on.

In the past the gala fundraiser has hit $10,000, Cummings is aiming higher.

So far the silent auction features an Oak Bay Beach Hotel stay and spa package, with more items coming in.

“This is about giving back to youth, and bridging the gap in Victoria’s mental health services,” Cummings said.

South Island Centre’s fifth annual fundraising gala at the Oak Bay Beach Hotel is at 7 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 19.

Visit Southislandcentre.ca/gala to purchase tickets or for more information.

The South Island Centre started in 1986 and relocated from downtown in 1995 to its current home on the grounds of St. Luke’s Cedar Hill Anglican Church (3821A Cedar Hill Cross Rd.) in Saanich.

reporter@oakbaynews.com


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