Falling through the safety net: Youth are at the heart of Canada’s mental health crisis

February 2, 2021|Press

Canada is grappling with a major youth mental health crisis characterized by high rates of mental illness, suicide, hospitalizations and considerable delays in access to services. These issues are exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic and opioid overdose epidemic. Significant reform of youth mental health care in Canada is paramount.

Funding prevention and early intervention

A key issue is the continued limited government funding for mental health, especially prevention.  Because 70 per cent of adults with mental health issues begin experiencing symptoms in adolescence, greater investment in youth mental health and prevention is vital. Evidence-based early intervention and prevention can reduce the prevalence of youth mental health and substance use disorders by about 50 per cent. Despite the science, current funding for prevention represents less than one per cent of all costs to society related to substance use disorders.

Towards new models of care

In response to the need for reform, new, more holistic models of care are emerging. For example, youth-focused and integrated services like Foundry BC and Youth Wellness Hubs Ontario (YWHO) follow a similar model to Australia’s Headspace and Canada’s ACCESS Open Minds to provide fast access to evidence-based, innovative mental health services. They also seek to delay transitions to adult services by extending care to young adults.

Canadian youth deserve affordable and accessible mental health care that’s backed by science, informed by their own voices and co-ordinated and funded nationally and provincially.

Click here to read the full article by Ranmalie Jayasinha and Patricia Conrod.