When Katie Wicik receives a phone call or an e-mail, it’s most likely from a family who is desperately looking for answers. As a clinical family navigator with the Family Navigation Project at Sunnybrook, Katie helps find appropriate care and resources for families and youth aged 13 to 26 who are living with serious mental health issues, addiction concerns or both.
As many as two million young people are struggling with mental illness in Canada, yet only one in five receives the help they need. “Knowing that there are always more families in need that can benefit from navigation is the most demanding part of my job,” says Katie.
Navigation is the key word here. In a complicated, ever-changing mental health system, families are often not aware of what help is available or they need support finding their way through the maze of programs, services and treatments.
“As a navigator, I provide information and offer a unique bridge that connects families with medical and clinical resources. I am always amazed at what can be accomplished – and how much stronger we are – when we all work together.”
Katie’s academic training has served her well. With a deep-rooted love for the fields of education, mental health and psychology, she studied psychoanalytic thought at the University of Toronto and then completed her graduate degree in education, counselling psychology.
“I feel an immense sense of pride and commitment being part of Sunnybrook, and I think of my work as my passion and not just a job.”
Spending time with her three children is Katie’s other passion. She coaches her children’s soccer and swim teams, hosts a boot camp and recently took up running. Beyond the physical health benefits, she also exercises for mental health and stress relief.
“I have been trying to make a point of carving out time for me, which then fuels my energy for my work and family.”
In September 2016, Katie will take part in the 15-kilometre run in the RBC Race for the Kids, a family event and fundraiser for youth mental health and the Family Navigation Project.
Photography by Doug Nicholson