Youth Are Not Getting Needed Treatment

June 30, 2009

Could Canada be on the verge of a fundamental transformation of mental health care?

Dr. Simon Davidson, psychiatrist at the Children’s hospital of Eastern Ontario (CHEO) and the Royal Ottawa Mental Health Centre, believes this could be the case.

He was the guest speaker at the Phoenix Centre for Children and Families annual general meeting, held recently in the community room at Miramichi Lodge in Pembroke.

The meeting was attended by about 50 staff, community partners and interested members of the community.

As the chairman of the Child and Youth Advisory Committee for the Mental Health Commission of Canada, Dr. Davidson has been guiding the commission as it works at stimulating a transformation of mental health services within the Canada and Ontario.

Dr. Davidson said mental health is the poor orphan of the health care system and yet it is the one illness that at some point will affect virtually every Canadian either directly or indirectly through a friend or family member.

He said 15 to 20 per cent of youth aged four to 18 have at least one diagnosable mental illness.

Continuing he stated that if youth were actually screened, the percentage would be higher.

Of those diagnosed, he said only one in six is receiving any kind of care.

“Ask yourself what if that were hip and knee replacements for adults and only one out of six actually received a replacement. I tell you, governments would fall. Why should it be different for our youth? It should be better,” he stated.

Continuing to illustrate the importance of mental health care for children, he said that 70 per cent of adults with mental illness had the illness manifest before the age of 18. The economic cost of employees and family members with mental illness was estimated by Dr. Davidson to be $51 billion annually.

“This is not rocket science. A major investment needs to be made to child and youth mental health services,” he said.

He believes that all children can benefit from mental health services, not just those diagnosed with a mental illness.

He said it would be of great benefit if four and five year olds were taught how to cope with life stresses in an adaptive way.

While praising certain “pockets of excellence” such as the Phoenix Centre, Dr. Davidson sees many problems with the current methods of delivering mental health services.

He is concerned about the fragmentation of services and believes that great hope lies in the co-ordination of services and providers. Breaking down barriers was one of his key messages.

Illustrating, he said that mental health workers whether psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers, or nurses are all trained separately.

His vision would see the common parts of each specialities’ training done together to better facilitate interdisciplinary teams rather than everyone learning in isolation.

Dr. Davidson said Canada is the only G8 country without a national mental health strategy although the commission is working at developing one.

He pointed out that while the government increased the overall health care budget in Ontario 3.6 per cent during this time of fiscal decline, no extra money was allotted for children and youth mental health, which is not inside the health care envelope but inside the Ministry of Children and Youth Services.

“Children and youth mental health is a health service, it is just in a different ministry. It should be awarded increases the same as health care,” he said.

Dr. Davidson believes that people, not governments lead.

“We need a strong social movement in which we are all saying the same thing to governments and politicians so that child and youth mental health get the resources it deserves,” he said.

Following Dr. Davidson’s address, the business portion of the meeting began.

Phoenix Centre board of directors president Ron Parker described the 2008-09 operational year as highly successful.

“Many program objectives were accomplished and many children and families throughout all regions of Renfrew County benefitted from a wide array of group and individual mental health services,” he said.

Looking forward he said the leadership of the Phoenix Centre has expressed a vision that pushes the envelope of integration, collaboration and consultation.

“We will be led by evidence-based programs that show value in the reduction of family concerns and effective treatment of children’s mental health problems,” he said.

Centre executive director Greg Lubimiv shared many of the same concerns expressed by Dr. Davidson, including the lack of funding.

“In the end it will be up to all of us to give voice to the need to make mental health, and in particular, children’s mental health as important as physical health and education of our children,” Mr. Lubimiv said.

He praised the centre’s work with the military and thanked its many community partners.

“…I be amazed that we move forward and we continue to make a difference in the lives of so many children, youth and their families,” he said.

The budget figures for the 2008-09 operating year were also presented.

The centre’s budget has increased nearly seven per cent over 2008 resulting mainly from increased salaries, building occupancy and program expenses.

Increases to the centre’s revenue from the Petawawa Military Family Resource Centre and from a provincial grant have balanced out the budget.

The 2009 budget indicates the centre should be in the black $78,392 which gives it a slim two per cent operating cushion.

The centre served 907 unique clients during the last operating year.

Anthony Dixon is a Daily Observer reporter

Article ID# 1635456

Reproduced from