This January, Youth Mental Health Advocate Evan Rodgers, presented this statement to the Standing Committee on Finance and Economic Affairs. This is his story.
Good afternoon, my name is Evan Rogers and I am a first-year social work student at the University of Windsor. I have had the opportunity to be a youth advocate in education and mental health services over the past few years.
As a former student trustee and a member of groups that advocate for the improvement of youth mental health services, I have seen many youth fall through the cracks of an imperfect system due to lack of continuity and accessing a system that is running in crisis.
When I was 14, I started to feel different and saw myself spiraling downwards, feeling worse and worse each week. Being young, I didn’t know where or who to go to. I struggled silently until my symptoms manifested to the point of declining grades, social engagement and general satisfaction of life. I reached out to gain support at age 16 and had to wait 8 months before being accepted into youth counselling.
The service I received was high quality and it worked. That is a testament to the fact that many youth prefer face to face counselling and shows that ensuring direct service treatment funding is a priority in the budget.
I understand that the needs of an individual varies by person and that there is no perfect model for improvement but ensuring that the promised funding is allocated to the core areas of success is imperative to effective use of taxpayer funds and effective results.
In my opinion, the legislated age of 18 that youth can receive service up to before needing to be transitioned to adult services should be raised to 25. I personally had a negative experience of “aging out” of youth service when due to lack of funding, my services were terminated and my full treatment plan was not completed.
I believe that there are many aspects to well-being and one of them is family relations. Due to the termination of my social worker, I was not able to work on the one thing that I desired entering treatment, a meeting with my dad to discuss how we can grow our communication and understanding skills together. This left me confused and upset not knowing what my next steps were to receive the help that I desired. Thankfully, because of counselling, I was in a position in my life where I was able to cope with the change and move forward without suffering outstanding effects.
I know this is not the case for many youth who are left in a crisis state in a system that is itself operating in a crisis mode due to lack of funding and appropriate measures. I, along with many others share the opinion that if the age of fundable service was raised to 25, the percentage of youth who ecover and don’t require further service would decrease year over year.
By this I mean, the amount of youth aged 18 who still need service at 19 will be higher than the amount of youth at 19 that still need service at 20. The economic and societal benefit of raising the age of service will outweigh the initial cost of adjusting the legislation and funding model for youth mental health.
Another benefit of raising the age from 18 to 25 is that it would allow already vulnerable youth, a smoother transition into one of the scariest times of their lives; becoming an independent, contributing adult.
One already tested method that I feel would be valuable to explore the possibility of expanding provincially for a range of ages is community-based day treatment. This would allow youth to remain in their communities while still receiving the services they require and deserve. Allowing youth to remain in their community ensures that they will recover quicker and better.
We all do better when we all do better and I wholeheartedly believe that with at minimum the promised amount of funding for mental health in Ontario, society as a whole will thrive at an increasing rate each year. I would like to end by thanking you for the opportunity to speak and I fully hope that the government recognizes the importance of funding mental health to ensure better outcomes for youth, families and communities. Thank you.
To find out more information about increasing the age of transition to 25, please Click Here to see CMHO's Pre-Budget Submission.