Annually, September 10th marks World Suicide Prevention Day (WSPD). This year’s theme is ‘Take a minute, change a life.’ Children’s Mental Health Ontario (CMHO) represents more than 100 Ontario public-funded, community-based children and youth mental health centres working to improve the mental health and treat mental illness of thousands of children and youth.
Despite its efforts and many other mental health practitioners, Canada’s current youth suicide rate is the third highest in the industrialized world and its young people between the ages of 15 and 19, who are struggling with mental illness and addiction, have the highest rates of suicide attempts of all Canadians.
But, as this year’s theme suggests, a few moments and words can change a life. CMHO is sharing a series of blogs to acknowledge that while many kids and their families are still struggling, there is hope and support available.
After reading these blogs, if you would like to see more done to help Ontario children and youth in crisis, please visit http://kidsmentalhealthcantwait.ca/ and ask our government to do more. #kidscantwait
Kids still suffering while waiting to access long-term counselling and therapy
written by Kim Moran
How many more reports and research showing that Canadian youth have poor access to mental health and addictions care will it take for government to make mental health care and addictions a funding priority? The latest report released in late August 2017 by the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences (ICES), shows that Canadian young people between the ages of 15 and 19, who are struggling with mental illness and addiction, have the highest rates of suicide attempts.
As we mark another World Suicide Prevention Day and as the CEO of Children’s Mental Health Ontario and mother to a child who has battled mental illness, it is especially astounding to me that the Ontario government is continuing to fail children, youth and families struggling with mental health issues. Similar to the national rate, Ontario’s highest rate of suicide attempts is for youth aged 10-25.
I hear from families and youth across the province that Ontario children and youth can wait up to 18 months for mental health care. Sometimes, the type of care they need isn't there at all. That’s not right. I know from my own personal experience how hard it is to secure the right kind of mental health treatment at the right time. My daughter became seriously mentally ill when she was just 11. We could not access the counselling and therapy she needed and within a few short months she became depressed and suicidal. Families just like ours continue to have the same experience over and over. This is a matter of life and death.
In Ontario, the government has made some recent strides towards prioritizing children and youth mental health by funding the teaching of administrators how to recognize when kids need mental health supports, they have also invested in making schools more mentally healthy. They also announced in early 2017 the intention to invest in co-locate services in nine youth wellness hubs. All of these efforts are important, but the single biggest issue continues to be ignored, the lack of long-term counselling and therapy for children and youth.
It is important to note that 70% of mental health problems have their onset during childhood or adolescence. When children and youth begin to struggle with mental health issues, they require counselling and therapy as soon as possible and close to home. This results in the best health outcome. Their families need support as well, because living with a child or youth with a mental health issue is extremely difficult and can impact family relationships, workplace attendance and one’s own physical and mental health.
The province’s largest publicly-funded service provider of community mental health services for children and youth, Children’s Mental Health Ontario, can help kids who are suffering as they wait for access to treatment. We have an action plan to help ensure kids get the treatment they need when they need it. On this World Suicide Prevention Day, I urge the Ontario government to act.
Kim Moran, CEO, Children’s Mental Health Ontario