New Calming Room Helps Youth in Crisis

Published Monday, November 15, 2021

New Calming Room Helps Youth in Crisis

by Graham Strong

Youth in crisis will have a new space to calm down thanks to support from Safeway employees through the Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Foundation. A new calming room in the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Unit (CAMHU) at the Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre will provide a safe space for inpatients experiencing “dysregulation” – an acute moment of overwhelming thoughts and emotions.

“Sometimes youth in our unit are processing things that can be quite traumatic,” said Jenny Stewart, CAMHU Manager. “They might be experiencing a flashback to a traumatic event or have difficulties processing. They may also have difficulties regulating their emotions, which can result in unsafe actions.”

The converted room will help reduce sensory distractions, provide calming sounds and visuals, and will be free of harmful furniture. Someone could be in the room with them, but they may also just wish to be left alone, depending on the situation, Stewart said. Two observation windows ensure they are always safe while they are calming themselves.

Stewart said that there isn’t an “average” amount of time the room might be used. There will be times when it could be used every day or it might only be used a handful of times per month – it is entirely patient driven. The eight-bed acute/crisis care unit provides care for youth from across Northwestern Ontario. Children and adolescents stay in the unit on average between three and eight days until they are stabilized.

 “Currently CAMHU doesn’t have a space specifically designed for those experiencing moments of intense emotion or who need to regulate their feelings. It’s more helpful for them to have a separate – and safe – area to deal with crisis,” Stewart said.

The calming room will be another available tool when needed. When it’s not needed, the multi-purpose room can be used for other activities.

Calming Room Built Thanks to Safeway Employees

The new calming room will be funded thanks to a donation from the Safeway Employees donation program. Dawson Road Safeway Manager Alex Siciliano said that the donation program allows the employees to direct their donations to charities of their choice. The program pools donations from employees at the five Safeway locations in Northwestern Ontario: two in Thunder Bay and one each in Kenora, Fort Frances, and Dryden. The Community Involvement Team then determines where to direct donations based on employee input. The Safeway Employees donation program has been a great supporter of the Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre, donating over $167,000 since 1999 and supporting various programs throughout the hospital.

“It’s an opportunity for employees to give to charities that are near and dear to their hearts,” Siciliano said. “Employees get to choose from a list of charities.”

He said that child and youth mental health is extremely important, particularly during COVID.

“Child and youth mental health is important to everyone in the community. That’s especially true now with the impact COVID has had on our younger generation.

“I’m proud to work for a company that allows its employees to choose a charity that’s close to home,” Siciliano said.

The calming room is currently in the planning stages and should be completed in 2022.


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