Written By: Joshua Tillson  (Youth Advocate, Sudbury)

As presented to the 2018 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. 

Hello, my name is Josh Tillson and I’m a 17-year-old grade 12 student here in Sudbury, Ontario. Back in February 2016, someone very close to me, my stepfather, took his life in our home. It was abrupt, something I could never have anticipated. It was truly traumatizing as not only did I suffer with the belief that I held some responsibility in his death, but I was also left with a feeling of betrayal.

In the weeks and months that followed, I distanced myself from my family and friends and tried to suppress all my dark emotions. Several times I sought the help of a counsellor, these interactions were very difficult as I felt no one could possibly understand how I was feeling. All anyone saw was a successful student and athlete. Eventually it got to the point where I attempted suicide, and I’m extremely fortunate to be here today.

I felt utterly alone, I did not know of the resources that are available to me. There are so many youths that struggle with these same thoughts and emotions. I was fortunate to have turned to running as my escape, somewhere I could release my emotions. However, most youth are unsure of what to do and where to go when they’re faced with depression and low mental wellness. They don’t know about the resources available to them, and sometimes they can’t access them either.

Here in Canada 1.2 million children and youth are affected by mental illness yet, less than 20 per cent will ever receive appropriate treatment. We as youth are the future, the future of Canada. Each and every one of us have something positive to contribute to society. Because I didn’t die back in May 2016, I’ve had the opportunity to do amazing things in our community. Every life, every youth that we lose to suicide had something beautiful to contribute to our world. These individuals can go on to be very successful and positively contribute to the economy. We as a society need to invest in our youth and invest in the mental health resources so that no one feels alone.

Furthermore, mental illness costs Canada over $50 billion annually in health care costs, lost productivity and reductions in health - related to quality of life. The social costs of poor mental health are high; a person with serious mental illness is at high risk of experiencing poverty, homelessness unemployment. There is strong evidence that promotion, prevention and early intervention targeted at children and families can produce significant net cost benefits. For example, improving just one child’s mental health from moderate to high has been found to result in lifetime savings of $140,000. Consider that about 1 million youth in Canada currently affected by mental illness, that is a huge savings for our country.

Taking all this into account not only are we saving money by putting our money towards mental health resources, we’re also saving lives and improving the quality of life for Canadians.

Invest in our future. Invest in our youth!

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 Jesús Rodríguez on Unsplash