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Home News Catholic Family Services launches Ride for Refuge to help deal with increased demand for mental health programming

Catholic Family Services launches Ride for Refuge to help deal with increased demand for mental health programming

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Catholic Family Services launches Ride for Refuge to help deal with increased demand for mental health programming
Ride for Refuge event chair Margaret Duncombe (right) poses for a photo with honourary chair Sheryl Kimbley (centre) and Richard Ahenakew of Northern Lights Casino (left). -- Submitted photo.

A Prince Albert mental health services provider says demand for their programs is growing faster than they can manage, and they’re hoping a new fundraising campaign introduced on Tuesday can help stem the tide.

Catholic Family Services officially launched Ride for Refuge on Tuesday. The goal is to get 20 teams of six to eight people signed up to raise $44,000 for the non-profit. Then on Saturday, Oct. 1, those teams will show their support by biking and walking the Rotary Trail.

“We are challenging people,” event chair Margaret Duncombe said following the kickoff at the Alfred Jenkins Field House. “We hope young people will get involved. We hope anybody who has had family impacted by mental health would understand that they’re most welcome to join us because it’s a worthy cause.”

So far, organizers have 13 teams signed up, and a group of sponsors led by Malcolm Jenkins and the Northern Lights Casino, helped them get to $5,000 of their $44,000 goal.

Duncombe said they’ve had a strong start to the campaign, and that’s good because the demand for mental health services is quickly outstripping what they can supply.

“The counsellors have noticed a dramatic increase in trauma in young people, older people, (and) families,” she said. “There have been a lot of challenges in the last couple of years. To be honest, I don’t think we can keep up with demand. We can certainly use more resources, (and) more staff, because the need is really high.”

Catholic Family Services provides 2,500 counselling sessions per year, but those sessions sometimes include more than one person. They also have hundreds of families taking part in life improvement and bridge programs.

Executive Director Louise Zurowski said the demand has always been high, but it’s skyrocketed in the last two years.

“We cannot meet the demand,” she said. “Right now, unless you are assessed as an emergency you’re going to have to wait to get into counselling.

“We had to change the way we do business (because of) COVID—we’re back now to seeing people in person—but it seems to be there’s a lot more stress out there,” she added. “There’s a lot more ‘financial burden’ stress on families. COVID certainly, there just seems to be, generally speaking, more stress, so we’ve certainly noticed that it’s increased.”

Zurowski said the demand for mental health services has increased in all demographics, but the noticeable group is seniors. In more than 20 years with Catholic Family Services, Zurowski said she rarely saw seniors use their programming, but that’s starting to change as isolation becomes a problem.

“I think there’s not as much of a stigma attached to (seeking help),” she said. “That’s a reason too that people are more willing now to reach out for mental health help, but we need more money.”

That’s a problem Catholic Family Services hopes to solve with Ride for Refuge. For more information about the event, visit www.rideforrefuge.org/princealbert.