Moncton's first mental health walk-in clinic will be powered by volunteer hours, graduate students and one counsellor's drive to give back to her community.

The Canadian Mental Health Association of New Brunswick partnered with Moncton counsellor Kerri Gaskin to launch the free clinic, which opens March 21.

The first-come-first-serve clinic will be run by the association from its Church Street office and will be open for three hours on Wednesdays every week.

Kristen Barnes, director of operations for the association, said anyone over the age of 18 can visit the clinic.

It's mainly intended to serve people who don't suffer from chronic mental health issues, but who are going through hard times in their lives.

Kristen Barnes

Kristen Barnes, director of operations for the Canadian Mental Health Association of New Brunswick, said anyone over the age of 18 can visit the clinic.

"We wanted to fill the need for individuals who need a little extra mental health support and maybe don't know where to go or they don't necessarily need long-term counselling," she said.

She also said the goal is not to act as emergency mental health support or to replace services such as the Chimo hotline or Moncton's Addiction and Mental Health Mobile Crisis team.

Fredericton has had a similar service for the past 10 years. Family Enrichment & Counselling Service has been providing free walk-in clinic services on Fridays from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. said Kelly Wilson, executive director of the service.
Giving back

Gaskin said she's needed mental health help before but she had the privilege of family and friends to support her.

She said some people don't have that privilege and that's why she wants to give back to the community by being the sole counsellor in the clinic — for now.

"I have children of my own and I think it's really important that I role model for them good community stewardship," she said. "That they understand that when you have something, if it doesn't harm you to share that thing with someone else, it can be really beneficial … at creating a sense of unity."

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Gaskin has lived with severe postpartum depression and anxiety, and knows first-hand how important it is to be able to access resources.

She said she hopes to give even one person the opportunity to feel they've been heard.

"To feel that somebody is listening and cares, that someone is respecting their dignity and sitting with them in compassion and vulnerability. If I can do that for one person then it will be a success."
More volunteers?

Barnes said she hopes other mental health professionals will step up and volunteer as well. In the meantime, some graduate students might also be doing their placements at the clinic.

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Barnes said she hopes this will encourage the public to talk about mental health.

"There's a large population that has not accessed mental health services," she said. "[This is] just for people to know that it's OK to say 'You know what I'm just going to walk in, I'm going to see a counsellor.'"

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