Stella Green Sanderson didn’t see her breakdown coming. “I just started to fall apart and I didn’t know what was happening or why it and things just became difficult to complete. I was paralyzed,” she tells CBC. She was suffering from anxiety and depression. The trouble was that programs her mother Donna Green found in Canada were all emergency based. They were mostly short-term facilities and because of Sanderson’s age, she’d have to access help through an adult facility. After talking to parents whose kids were struggling with similar mental health issues, Green decided to start her own center: Stella’s Place.
She says it’s the only mental health center in Toronto that serves teens and young adults beyond the age of 18. “We realized if we could create a program for young folks between the ages of 16 and 29, where so much of this stuff happens, wouldn’t that be something? To create a community, not a hospital, to work in partnership with young adults to really have a voice in what’s best for them…” Green said.
The front doors lead you to a cafe where young people can hang out, surf the Internet or speak to a peer support counselor. But the center also offers therapies to help young adults cope with mood disorders and tools to train their brains to think differently.
All of this, Green says, is done in consultation with medical experts and young people who’ve been through a crisis. “They are the experts. They’ve walked the walk for this experience. And while we need professional support and evidence based programs, it is the young persons themselves who know best,” she says.
In the future, the center plans to launch an app so young adults can interact with a peer support workers online. And Stella’s Place — launched with private donations and some provincial funding — will not turn away any young person who needs help.
“We feel strongly it should be available to everybody who comes through the door and we’re working those things out in the hopes that we get to say ‘yes’ to everybody,” Green said.