Written By Clarissa Arthur, Youville Centre, Ottawa 

As presented in January 2018 to the Ontario Budget Committee 

Recently, Children’s Mental Health Ontario and some of its nearly 100 mental health service providers met with Ontario MPPs and the Ontario Finance Minister as the Government of Ontario decides what programs and services it will prioritize in 2018. Kids mental health experts and youth mental health advocates have been sharing their experiences and alerting politicians that there is a children's mental health crisis. Read what they shared, along with solutions to the crisis from Children's Mental Health Ontario. 

At Youville Centre, for over 30 years, we have been serving young mothers and their children as they learn to utilize their strengths to achieve their goals for themselves and their children.

We can serve up to 100 young mothers between the ages of 14 and 25 in a year. Just pause and think for a moment, that’s a 14 years old young girl, raising a baby; often without the support of her family.

Many of our clients have trauma related issues. In 2016-17, 87% of our clients experienced anxiety, 78% experienced depression, and 55% were flagged with post traumatic stress disorder.

Symptoms of child and youth mental health problems start early in childhood and significant mental health problems can and do occur in young children.

We see it firsthand. Young mothers struggling to manage their own mental health while attempting to care for their child. Important non-verbal cues from baby misinterpreted; influenced by the often, lack of positive parenting they were shown as a child; they’re involved in unhealthy relationships, struggling with housing and finances, all while attempting to be a mom. Our clients are adolescents with mental health struggles, raising children who have the chance of developing their own mental health struggles specifically related to the parent-child relationship.

We have 2 registered psychotherapists onsite (who’s salary we have to fundraise for), however, the caseload they carry is too large to meet the demands of the clients. We know we need more clinical support, but we don’t have it. Why; because it’s not in our budget. Well being and mental health are not in our budget. Something about that just doesn’t seem right.

Due to chronic underfunding by the Ontario government, we are unable to provide the care our young mothers and their children need. I ask you, what will happen to this young mother and child, if she does not access this important service?

How can we put a price on the mental health and well being of some of our most vulnerable populations? This is our future generation.

We know that access to mental health intervention works. With 1084 counselling sessions offered last year, 100% of our clients had reduced suicidal ideation; 98% experienced a reduce in substance use, and 93% had overall improved mental health outcomes.

We offer unique parent-child programming, where mom can work 1:1 with her therapist to learn in the moment strategies that support a caring, supportive attachment. The problem with that? We don’t have the money to fund this initiative full time, so mom only has access when we have the time to provide it. It’s not acceptable.

We need to expand specialized youth mental health and addiction centres to ensure that children and youth get the treatment they need. Increased access to programming means better outcomes for our young moms and for their children. Right now, we have an opportunity to break a debilitating cycle. I know this because just one month after my 17th birthday, I found out I was pregnant and I found my way to Youville. My son will be 23 this year.

We are in a child and youth mental healthcare crisis in Ontario. We join Children’s Mental Health Ontario in calling on the Government of Ontario in requesting an increase in staff wages, and an expansion of services. We need to make child and youth mental health a priority in the next Ontario budget.

Show your support for child and youth mental health care. Visit www.kidsmentalhealthcantwait.ca to send Premier Wynne a letter telling her that you think child and youth mental health needs funding now. It will take less than a minute of your time. 

Photo by Alex Pasarelu on Unsplash