By Mary-Anne Leahy
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.
I work for The New Mentality, which is a provincial network of youth with mental illness who work to influence change within the children and youth mental health system in Ontario to create a system that actually works for young people receiving mental health treatment.
My work allows me to travel across the province to hear directly from young people about their experience receiving mental health treatment in Ontario. I have had the privilege to meet some amazing, talented, and incredible young people. Who really have the potential to become successful, fulfilled, happy adults, who contribute positively to their communities and society as a whole.
But they are fighting against the odds because they have mental illness and without intensive mental health treatment, their futures are up in the air. These youth are literally fighting for their lives in a system that is not currently able to support them. The heartbreaking reality is that some of them will die by suicide because they are waiting too long for treatment or the service they need doesn’t even exist in their community. This is unacceptable.
It scares me that that is the future we are creating for our young people today. Where children and youth who are full of potential and promise - have their lives thrown away because they couldn’t receive treatment when and where they needed it. The reality is that our young people today are still facing the same challenges that youth have been facing in Ontario for decades.
It is wonderful when I hear about mental health investments, such as the Youth Hubs announced by Minister Hoskins in April 2017, but they are not the solution for our most mentally ill and vulnerable youth, who need much more intensive treatment.
In my work I have seen young people with serious mental illness receive treatment and are now thriving young adults with a bright future in front of them. The problem is many of these youths are thriving because they literally had to fight to get treatment in their communities. Experiencing long wait times and difficultly finding the right service for them and their family in the process. Many express to me that they didn’t know why it had to be so hard, why they had to get critically ill before anyone would even help them. I don’t understand why people fighting to stay alive also have to fight for treatment.
Enough is enough. Youth need all of you to stand up for them. I don’t know how many more children need to die for the government to take notice. We keep hearing that children and youth mental health is the government’s number one priority and that there can be no health without mental health. But still, kids don’t get the treatment they need.
In my hometown, 40 minutes from Toronto, in the last few months, two teenagers, 14 and 17 have committed suicide. How many more must die before the government does something about it? The government need to ensure that children and youth get the treatment they need as SOON as they need it.
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.