THE GREEN LINE
Charity fills low-cost therapy gap for students in Downtown Yonge East
Hard Feelings has begun conducting neighbourhood surveys to identify gaps in mental health support, as its goal is to support local families and students as well as possible with its low-cost counselling services and programming.
HARD FEELINGS STAFF CHAT INSIDE THE STOREFRONT.
: AMANDA SERAPHINA/THE GREEN LINE
Aspiring film photographer who studies journalism, communication and design at Toronto Metropolitan University. Visits beaches at 6 a.m. to clear her head.
AMANDA SERAPHINA JAMES RAJAKUMAR
Indian immigrant with a post-grad in journalism from Centennial College. Now living in Grange Park, meeting new people, and hearing different stories. Has four names, so it’s a pick-your-player situation.
October 27, 2023
An innovative charity in Downtown Yonge East is working to make counselling and therapy more accessible, especially in a neighbourhood dominated by students.
Post-secondary institutions including Toronto Metropolitan University, George Brown College and University of Toronto, St. George campus surround Hard Feelings' new location at Gerrard Street East and Church Street.
School stress can often lead to burnout and mental health struggles, which is why the charity provides low-cost counselling so clients can get support without breaking the bank. Hard Feelings says it's trying to help a new generation in this neighbourhood embrace therapy.
“We wanted to be this street-level presence where anybody can come and walk in and have those conversations, and see that counsellors and other people here to help are just like regular people like me, and that we're happy to have these conversations and that there's nothing wrong with having those conversations," said store manager Taima Humbert.
In February, Hard Feelings moved from its original location at Bloor Street West and Ossington Avenue to Church and Gerrard, where over half of the neighbourhood population is between 15 and 39 years old, according to the City of Toronto.
Since opening the team has conducted community surveys via Instagram, storefront QR codes and pop-ups. They want to identify local gaps in mental health coverage for these gen Z and millennial Torontonians.
TAIMA HUMBERT, STORE MANAGER OF HARD FEELINGS, STANDS IN FRONT OF A BOOKSHELF.
📸: AMANDA SERAPHINA/THE GREEN LINE.
“We're trying to create that sense of community. But we need to know what people need in terms of a community, so we've had a lot of feedback from students so far," said Martin Seal, volunteer and community engagement lead. "What they're looking for is really a place to get away, get away from busyness, get away from the typical places where you might go to study."
“We're something sort of in between. And really, what that allows us to do is sort of open up those conversations around mental health.”
A big part of Hard Feelings' work is connecting Torontonians who seek mental health support to resources and to peers experiencing similar challenges.
Last month, Hard Feelings hosted a pop-up to attract passersby into the storefront. The team gave tips on how to navigate existing mental health resources, while vendors shared stories about their mental health struggles and positive pathways forward.
"Caring for your mental health and building stronger mental health comes in many different aspects, and sometimes it comes from engaging with peers," said Judy Snagg, store and social media assistant. "That's why I wanted to invite the vendors, because each of them had an aspect of their mental health journey, either in their products or like in their own practices."
MARTIN SEAL, VOLUNTEER AND COMMUNITY ENGAGEMENT LEAD OF HARD FEELINGS, STANDS IN THE MIDDLE OF THE STOREFRONT.
: AMANDA SERAPHINA/THE GREEN LINE.
Executive director Kate Scowen previously worked at Toronto Metropolitan University's counselling centre, so she was familiar with the mental health needs of Downtown Yonge East's young population.
Free therapy meant long wait times, but shorter wait times meant more expensive therapy. That's why Hard Feelings offers low-cost counselling to fill in that gap.
JUDY SNAGG, STORE AND SOCIAL MEDIA ASSISTANT OF HARD FEELINGS, STANDS IN FRONT HARD FEELINGS' EMOTIONS WHEEL.
: AMANDA SERAPHINA.THE GREEN LINE.
Students often have limited health insurance from their post-secondary institutions, which means Hard Feelings' therapy sessions are basically free with short wait times.
"In many ways, it becomes kind of free for them because we can bill directly most of the counsellors, but they have more capacity. So, it made sense that we were able to expand our rates a little bit to kind of make that work for our counsellors and clients, as well," Scowen explained.
KATE SCOWEN, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF HARD FEELINGS, STANDS OUTSIDE IN FRONT OF THE STOREFRONT.
: AMANDA SERAPHINA/THE GREEN LINE.
Students often have limited health insurance from their post-secondary institutions and with Hard Feelings, their sessions are basically a low-cost or free option with shorter wait times than other cheaper traditional therapy options.
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