The alarm is ringing. Our children deserve better.

Today, Ontario Psychiatrists released its report showing that the rate of suicide among young Canadians is dire and urges government to tackle these disturbing numbers. Children’s Mental Health Ontario (CMHO) strongly supports the recommendations in the report and calls for quick action.

According to the report, Stemming the Tide: Strengthening youth suicide prevention in Ontario and in Canada, the number of suicides across Canada has remained unchanged for more than four decades, with 70 per cent of mental health issues starting in childhood and suicide accounting for 24 per cent of all deaths among young people. Suicide is the leading cause of death among Canadians age 15 to 34.

This startling report comes on the heels of another recent report by Kids Help Phone, showing that 22 per cent of Canadian teens have considered suicide in the last year.

The alarm is ringing: We are facing a national public health crisis that needs a prevention plan. Among its recommendations, Ontario Psychiatrists calls for investments in better mental health support for families affected by mental health, and better care coordination and service alignment. CMHO supports these recommendations.

Right now, children and youth can wait more than a year to get the care that they need. As a result the number of emergency room visits is on the rise: hospital in-patient admissions for children and youth with mental illness in Canada have increased by a startling 42 per cent, and emergency room visits have risen by 50 per cent.

There is clear evidence that early intervention can avert crisis, but the current resourcing strategy in Canada is focused on crisis treatment. We need to change that and build an effective children’s mental health system with sufficient resources to intervene in the early stages of a mental health issue, which is proven to garner the most effective results.

For our part, CMHO will be convening teachers, family physicians, child psychiatrists, hospitals, school boards, together with youth and parents to build a vision of an integrated system that works. We want to partner with government to implement a strategy to close the gaps between the failing system we have now and what we need.

It’s time to curb this disturbing trend and take a long-term, effective, and cost-savings approach to supporting children and youth with mental illness. Our children deserve better.