Mental health is one of the biggest healthcare challenges facing Canada today. While the general issue is certainly an area of concern, the specific problem of how these illnesses are affecting Canadian children often goes overlooked.
The Demand Outweighs the Supply
According to data from the Canadian Mental Health Association, nearly 3.2 million youths between the ages of 12 and 19 face the risk of developing serious depression, while as many as one in five will experience a mental illness at some point in their lifetime, the Vancouver Sun reports. Yet despite the prevalence of these major issues, the current treatment system lacks the resources to adequately care for patients.
"Child and youth mental health is the orphan of an already quite orphaned system," Joanne Lowe, executive director of the Ottawa Youth Services Bureau, told the Sun.
Emergency rooms and other open clinics are experiencing a rise in the number of children and teens who show up with serious mental health problems, CTV News reports. More individuals asking for help is a positive thing, as it means there's a greater chance they get the assistance they need, but it also puts a drain on already limited resources.
Healthcare Needs a Makeover
Critics claim the only way youth in Canada will get the help they need is if there are changes made to the system. Lowe recommends emphasizing a strategy that promotes mental health literacy, alerting children to the warning signs of problems and the dangers of bullying to practice preventative measures. Improving resources for research and other services are also a necessity if healthcare is to be improved.
"We have not created systems of care that are organized to meet the demand that's actually out there in terms of true mental illness," Ian Manion, executive director of the Ontario Centre of Excellence for Child and Youth Mental Health, told CTV. "... We don't know how many mental health providers we actually need to meet the demand. Sometimes a crisis pushes us to look at how we ... care for people."
Ultimately, Canada will have to raise awareness about mental health problems - and specifically issues affecting young people - before significant improvements can be made.
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