One in five children and youth has an identifiable mental health disorder and of those, five out of six will never get the help they need. We also know that suicide is the second leading cause of death among 10 to 24 year olds.
When mental health issues begin at such a young age, they can have an affect over a person’s entire lifespan. Of adults living with a mental illness, 70% report having the symptoms before the age of 18 and of those, 50% had them before the age of 14.
As the largest provider of child and youth mental health services in Eastern Ontario, CHEO has a front row seat to the impact of mental health issues on our children. We are seeing unprecedented demand for our mental health services and a significant increase in the seriousness of cases. Consider these statistics:
- 50% increase in mental health crisis visits to CHEO Emergency department over the last two years
- 146% increase over the past five years in mental health admissions to CHEO as a result of Emergency department visits
- 60% increase in outpatient referrals to CHEO clinics between 2010 and 2011
- Wait times for non-urgent referrals have increased from two or three months to six to 12 months
The good news is that the stigma and discrimination towards people with mental health problems and illness has been receding over the past few years. Mental health is now talked about where people live, work and play. As these attitudes change, more families are seeking help yet, at the same time, the current system isn’t equipped to handle the surge.
Advocacy at CHEO
CHEO is a leader in child and youth mental health, working with partners around promotion and early intervention, assessment and treatment. The Advocacy Committee complements this clinical excellence with a focus on:
- Addressing the stigma that can cause barriers to access
- Promoting the importance of investing in our children’s resiliency and mental health as a CHEO priority
CHEO believes that increased investment in mental health promotion and early intervention would have dramatic implications for our children and youth, one which could be positively felt across their entire life-span. Access to services and help in childhood and adolescence will actually reduce expenditures in adult mental health services and in the justice system.
In May 2012, the Mental Health Commission of Canada released the country’s first mental health strategy – Changing Directions, Changing Lives.
See CHEO’s news release supporting and commenting on the new mental health strategy.
You can support the recommendations for change in Canada’s new mental health strategy by signing the Mental Health Commission’s petition - Take Action to Support Mental Health, Be Part of the Change.