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.
Mother, Sarah Cannon, recently joined Pathstone Mental Health to meet with government leaders in Niagara.
Here is what she had to say.
"I come here today as a mother of two children who have both dealt with significant mental health disorders, as well as a wife who lost her husband and the father of her children to mental illness when he took his life.
As a mother, I continue to be struck by the need to prove a return on investment to early intervention and treatment, when really it should just come down to what is the right thing to do, considering our children and youth are dying at alarming rates due to mental illnesses.
Help us end the wait for mental health care for families in Ontario. Please join Children's Mental Health Ontario, Pathstone Mental Health, and Shannon. Tell the Ontario Government to invest in Ontario Child and Youth Mental Health Centres
Losing Youth to Suicide
We hear more and more of the epidemic of youth deaths caused by suicide. Suicide claims more lives each year than all of the childhood cancers combined, yet we would never make a child diagnosed with cancer wait upwards of 18 months for treatment, knowing that withholding early treatment could ultimately cause their illness to become fatal. And yet, in this sector, we seem to sanction that.
When my youngest daughter started to exhibit symptoms of anxiety and depression, she was placed on multiple waiting lists.
As she sat on all these waiting lists without any services, her condition became worse, as most illnesses left untreated will.
She was then placed on different, longer waiting lists for different programs, because her case had become more complex. Before ever getting off a wait-list and into any treatment, (she attempted suicide), which ultimately led to her needing to be hospitalized.
Long Wait Times
My oldest daughter, as well, has struggled since she was five, and we have done all we can to access community-based treatment programs that would support her. But, again, her condition became so severe she required hospitalization, and has just been discharged after a 43-day stay in hospital. I do not know what the actual costs to the province of those hospitalizations were, but I do know a recent report by a Canadian Health Institute states that mental health disorders are among the top 10 most expensive conditions to treat in hospital.
In a time where we are trying to end hallway medicine and design health services that wrap around patients in their homes and communities, why do we continue to not adequately fund community-based services that would not only keep our children and youth out of hospital and decrease costs to our health system, but will increase their capacity to cope and heal from their illnesses?
As a mother, and also a voter, this does not make any sense to me. Where will we have the largest return on our investment provincially? Through an investment to our community-based mental health care.
Urge the Province to Invest in Kids Mental Health Services
I truly hope that we can realize, as a province, that an investment in community-based mental health care for our children and youth is needed, required and integral to not only saving our province money, but saving the lives of the children and youth who represent our future. Is this not the greatest priority we have in this province? Should we not care for and protect our children and youth?
When will we adequately fund our community-based services and when will we change the conversation to include that some of these risks and some of these costs are not just measured in dollars and cents?
My ask today is that we invest in the foundation of the community, in our children and youth, in our community-based system, so that our system and our children and youth and families don’t crumble underneath an inadequately funded system.