Posted on April 09 2020
This is the first HumbleBerry Highlight- a series featuring women working in the social impact sector and the organizations they support.
I chatted with Alex Sawatzky from Stella's Place.
KM: Thanks so much for chatting with me Alex! So, for those who don’t know about Stella’s Place, please tell us about it and how you’re helping during the COVID-19 crisis.
AS: Stella’s Place offers mental health services for young adults in Canada, usually at our downtown Toronto space but because of COVID-19 we’ve switched to providing our support virtually. The pandemic has many of our participants more anxious and stressed so thankfully we were able to quickly switch to offering phone, text and video support and continue delivering the services that help our young adults to improve and maintain good mental health and our participants have responded with remarkable resilience and flexibility.
KM: I can definitely relate to feeling stress with everything going on because of this virus. What services are currently available through Stella’s to help with that?
AS: We’ve more than doubled service hours for our secure mobile chat application, BeanBagChat and the uptake has been swift. Through the privacy of their cell phones, young adults are supported to manage through this health crisis. Our clinicians are also offering individual counselling sessions over the phone and on video technology. “Walk-in” counselling is now offered virtually and has been doubled from one to two afternoons per week. Access to our psychiatrist and to pre-employment counselling is also now online. Our Studio is also continuing virtually by offering weekly art projects that participants can work on at home and then share and discuss via email and social media.
KM: Wow! I’m so glad Stella’s is able to continue offering all these much-needed services, especially at a time like this. How did you become involved with Stella’s Place?
AS: A friend told me about an opportunity in creative marketing here so I researched Stella’s Place and knew that this organization was something I wanted to be a part of. I’ve always been a mental health advocate, and Stella’s Place was exactly the thing I needed years ago when I was experiencing my own mental health challenges. I was very moved by this organization’s barrier-free, peer-led, community-based approach to young adult mental health. I’ve been in the role for a little over a year now and love being a part of Stella’s Place ground-breaking moves in young adult mental health service and how we are addressing the gap in our care system that urgently needs to be filled.
KM: What does your role as Creative Marketing Coordinator at Stella’s Place entail?
AS: I’m responsible for graphic design and creative campaigns as well as photography. I also manage our social media and blog and some donor communications. I’m part of the Marketing & Communications team and the larger Development team, which means my role is establishing Stella's Place as a well-known brand that is innovative and consistent. It also involves using storytelling to keep our community involved and informed while creating visuals that aid in communicating mental health wellness/awareness.
KM: I love what you do! What are the most rewarding aspects of your job?
AS: The most rewarding parts are seeing first-hand the effect that the community and support has on young adults. Walking into our building and seeing our cafe bustling with life, I feel a huge sense of community right away. Being able to hear and share stories about how this organization has impacted lives is so rewarding.
KM: What are the most challenging?
AS: It can be challenging to decide how and when to communicate stories. To attempt to communicate a personal/intimate story while effectively holding it with care, and deciding how to use visuals to communicate in alternate methods can be tough at times. Other challenges involve juggling many different responsibilities in a fast-paced and constantly changing environment.
KM: What goals does Stella's have for the next few years?
AS: Stella’s Place has a lot of growth on the horizon in the next few years, to reach even more young adults and to continue spreading mental health awareness. We are looking to expand our services by sharing our technology and knowledge base with other institutions across North America, such as our chat-based peer support app, Bean Bag Chat, and other programs. We are spreading our message: Stella’s Place is the future of mental health. We are also starting renovations on a new building twice the size of our current one that will put Stella’s Place on the map as a place for young adults that is here to stay.
KM: That’s amazing Alex! How can the public help Stella's reach those goals?
AS: The number one way the public can help us reach these goals is by donating. We are able to do what we do and offer all of our services free of charge thanks to the generosity of our donors and we are incredibly grateful. Other ways to support, once we have a handle on the COVID-19 crisis, will be by hosting and supporting events that contribute to our efforts. Our community has hosted many creative fundraisers, such as runs and other sporting events, benefit concerts, movie nights, shared meals and many more. We also have enterprise partners who donate a percentage of the products or services they sell. As well, following us on social media, interacting with us online, to spread awareness are great ways to help.