CMHO will be posting a new weekly blog series featuring stories from parents and youth who have experienced high quality treatment at one of Ontario's Child & Youth Mental Health Centres. We are sharing these stories to show that when given the opportunity to access treatment, kids with mental health issues can move forward and have great lives.

The ECHO Residential Treatment Program (ECHO) is for adolescent males (ages 13-17) who have engaged in sexually harmful behaviour. 

Jake arrived as an ECHO client when he was 14-years-old. Jake, who had lived in a series of different living arrangements since the age of 8, was referred to ECHO because he had engaged in sexually inappropriate behaviour with a peer. Jake faced other challenges, too, including impulsivity, difficulty socializing, as well as engaging in property damage and self-harm behaviours. Overall, Jake struggled to control his emotions, and this impacted him both at home and at school.

At first, Jake’s counsellor had a hard time finding the right way to approach helping him, mainly because it was hard for Jake to form meaningful relationships with other people. For the first month of treatment, Jake insisted that he didn’t need help, and he refused to attend his sessions. Eventually, however, Jake’s counsellor was able to use playing a game to draw Jake out of his shell and they began to build a trusting relationship together.

Over the course of the next year and a half, Jake worked with a team of people who helped support his success at ECHO and at school. Before leaving ECHO, Jake completed his sex-offense specific work, and in the process he gained empathy and insight into how his behaviours affect other people. He began taking responsibility for his actions. Jake also gained a number of practical life skills, such as learning how to grocery shop. Throughout his time at ECHO, Jake’s confidence, independence and self-awareness also grew, and this once shy and withdrawn young man now describes himself as a “social butterfly".

Another positive outcome for Jake was that he began to re-establish a relationship with his family. He began to have regular weekly visits with his mother, including his first overnight visit in 7 years, and upon leaving ECHO he had a much more meaningful connection to his family and access to a large support network.

Jake’s success highlights the importance of fostering each child’s unique strengths and tailoring their treatment accordingly. 

Stories like this one show us that mental health treatment works. But community child & youth mental health centres do not have enough funding to keep up with the current demand for services. Kids are waiting for months, or even years, to receive the life saving treatment they so desperately need. Talk with your local MPP today and ask them to invest in kids mental health, because our Kids Can't Wait.  


We want to thank both Jake and Peel Children's Centre for sharing this story.

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 Photo by Anton Danilov on Unsplash