COVID-19’s community impact: Mental health centre really ‘busy’

Colourful painted rocks with inspirational quotes surrounding a Tristan’s Place sign in the garden at the front of the house. Photo credit: Nicole Fisher

Editor’s note: This is one in a series of articles chronicling the effects of COVID-19 on businesses and organizations in Oshawa.

COVID-19 has created challenges for some businesses but one local mental health resource centre is finding themselves busier than ever during the pandemic.

Tristan’s Place is a waitlist-free, mental health facility in Oshawa offering 24-hour crisis supports, therapy programs, safe beds and more to help mental illness in the community. It was created with a vision in mind to help those in need by Darlene Dobbs and Kevin Taylor, owners of Tristan’s Place.

The name of the facility comes from Tristan Connolly, a former Durham College student, who lost his battle with mental illness after many challenges, including being waitlisted for psychiatric help.

The rainbow-stone driveway leading to the front door of Tristan’s Place highlighting the candle in the garden and the white memorial bench.
The rainbow stone driveway leading to the front door of Tristan’s Place highlighting the candle in the garden and the white memorial bench. Photo credit: Nicole Fisher

The goal of the establishment is to inspire hope and empower people affected by life’s adversities and to enrich their quality of life through psychotherapy, according to the Tristan’s Place brochure.

“It’s a safe, non-judgmental place where anybody can come and do therapy and get linked with some others who might be experiencing similar things, so that way they know they aren’t alone,” said Dobbs. “We got insanely busy, so while most businesses slowed down, we got crazy busy after April, beginning of May when people were starting to feel isolated.”

Dobbs and Taylor both saw a rise in visits to their location as a response to the pandemic.

“Everything in our system is waitlisted,” said Dobbs. “We decided to open somewhere with no waitlist at all.

“Our youngest client has been 12 and our oldest has been 78. Generally, in between 20 and 35 is what we usually see as an average, but we get them as young as 12,” said Dobbs.

Statistics Canada surveyed approximately 46,000 Canadians on mental health during COVID-19. Almost half the surveyors reported fair or poor mental health during COVID-19 . Later, 52 per cent reported their mental state worsened since the onset of physical distancing.

“The pandemic impacted mental health a lot which has made us extremely busy,” said Dobbs.

Tristan’s Place has been able to recover most of their services since the outbreak first shut down businesses but are now facing new challenges.

COVID-19 protocols posted on the front door of Tristan’s Place to ensure physical and social distancing is maintained.
COVID-19 protocols posted on the front door of Tristan’s Place to ensure physical and social distancing is maintained. Photo credit: Nicole Fisher

Tristan’s Place is experiencing a staffing shortage as a result of the virus because some employees had to prioritize other jobs.

With COVID-19 cases on the rise in Ontario, some worry about the second wave of the virus.

“We’re concerned about hiring more people because if it does hit and we do have to go back to virtual care, we won’t be able to service everyone who calls with the staff we have,” said Dobbs.

While some businesses cut staff or shut down indefinitely as a response to the pandemic, Tristan’s Place is finding themselves with an increase in work and a demand in services for months to come.

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