The Welcome Centre at the London Public Library sees immediate success as a mental health resource

Header image for the article The Welcome Centre at the London Public Library sees immediate success as a mental health resource Credit: JESSICA CARSWELL
Crystal McKeller (left) and Carolyn Petley (right) at the Welcome Centre located on the second floor of the central branch of the London Public Library.

A new initiative at the central branch of the London Public Library, called the Welcome Centre, lets individuals speak with mental health workers to learn more about the services available to them in the London community.

The initiative, which launched in June, is a collaborative project between the Canadian Mental Health Association Middlesex (CMHA) and the London Public Library. The CMHA Middlesex is an organization that offers community-based mental health supports to individuals in the London, Goderich, Exeter and Strathroy areas who are 16 years of age or older. According to the official website for the organization, the goals are to “promote good mental health, prevent further illness, offer treatment, support recovery and provide mental health education.”

The Welcome Centre is available on Wednesdays from 9:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. on the second floor of the central branch of the London Public Library. The Welcome Centre provides listening services for clients and helps connect them to resources and services in the community regarding mental health or addiction. “We are able to do referrals to different organizations in the city, such as Addiction Services of Thames Valley,” said Carolyn Petley, a mental health worker for the community wellness program at CMHA Middlesex.

The staff were surprised at the immediate success of the Welcome Centre. According to Brent Carr, the manager of community wellness at the CMHA Middlesex, approximately 11 to 15 individuals stop by and engage with the CMHA on a one-to-one level each Wednesday. Carr said that the CMHA has a friendly and welcoming staff, which he states is one of the main reasons for the Welcome Centre's success.

Crystal McKellar, a mental health worker for the CMHA Middlesex, explained that the library is a popular destination for newcomers to the city of London, as well as individuals with mental health issues, individuals who are homeless or in poverty.

“We're there to support more than just mental health. We can help with connections to what is going on in the community such as events and also provide a listening ear [] [and] a welcoming face in the community,” said Jessica Carswell, a mental health worker for the CMHA Middlesex.

Carswell explained that the staff at the Welcome Centre are from London and can assist individuals who are new to the London community, such as Fanshawe students, in regards to upcoming events and activities to do in the Forest City. “I'm a university student myself and it can be quite a bubble. It's hard to break out of that bubble and find out what's going on in the community. I think the staff at the Welcome Centre are a really great resource for that.”