In the coming weeks leading up to the release of the 2020 provincial budget by the Government of Ontario, Children's Mental Health Ontario's members, which provide the majority of publicly-provided child and youth mental health care in the province, and youth and family mental health advocates will be attending public meetings with Ontario government leaders and MPPs to urge them to increase investments in community child and youth mental health care. They will remind government decision makers that the length of time and the number of young people and their families waiting for Ontario publicly-provided child and youth mental health care is at an all-time high.
And, they will share their front-line and lived experiences about families that are in crisis and struggling at home, work and school because they are not able to access the mental health care they need.
The first to share her expert views was Fizza Abbas of CMHO's youth engagement group, The New Mentality. Here is her statement presented on January, 17, 2020:
Did you know that if a child or youth has a serious mental health problem, they will need to wait up to 2 years just to access basic services, and because they wait, they sometimes become ill and often suicidal.
Almost 100,000 kids a year are going to the hospital looking for help, and you may think it’s a great idea, but it isn’t. The last place a youth with a mental health issue wants to be is at a hospital, because mental health is not like having a broken arm. Treatment takes time, and this pattern of waiting, then having to rush to a hospital when in crisis, and then back to waiting, has become almost like a revolving door, and that is not okay.
I ask that you think of a young person in your life that is important to you, maybe your child, a niece or a nephew, or the child of a close friend. Now imagine they were experiencing a mental health crisis and they made the brave and necessary choice to seek help rather than harming themselves, but instead were asked to wait years just to access services, and their only other option was to visit the emergency room. This is the reality of many young people because of the lack of child and youth mental health services.
36% of Ontario parents have sought help for their child; of those who did, 4 in 10 didn’t receive the help they needed, or as we currently sit here today, they are still waiting for treatment. This is unacceptable.
We must recognize that the current children and youth mental health system is extremely crisis-oriented. The policy paper you see before you, Crisis to Quality, was written in 2018 by a passionate group of youth on our youth action committee. Their call to action is to address the gaps and they have developed recommendations to help build a child and youth mental health system that is one of quality.
These youth are frustrated, kids across the province are frustrated, and though these youth have heard many praises by senior government officials on their recommendations, they’ve failed to see any action being taken by the government.
Additionally, there are many kids that aren’t reaching out for help, due to the lack of culturally appropriate services available for them. They have become invisible.
We have heard many commitments made by the government, most notably a promise of 3.8 billion dollars in funding for mental health, with a commitment to Child and Youth Mental Health as a top priority. Yet we fail to see any action being taken. There is a crisis. Kids and families are hurting, and little is being done to support them.
Youth from across the province are demanding to see change now. They ask that individuals such as yourselves, who hold power and the privilege of representing your communities in government, to take action. The future of this wonderful province lies in the hands of our youth, and we cannot afford to lose them.
You can help us in ending the wait for mental health care for families in Ontario. Please join us and Fizza. Tell the Ontario Government to invest in Ontario Child and Youth Mental Health Centres: https://www.ontario.ca/page/2020-budget-consultations