*The following article was written by Kim Moran on December 4th, 2017. She is a mental health advocate, CEO of Children's Mental Health Ontario and parent of a child who has struggled with mental health issues.
Assia Messaoudi was 12 when she started feeling sad and avoiding school. After weeks of missed school, her mom took her to their family doctor. Assia was placed on a wait list for mental health services. For two years Assia waited, slipping into what she called "a dark hole." Finally, after a suicide attempt, she received treatment. That was 10 years ago. One would think with all of the medical advances and destigmatizing of mental illness that getting the right kind of treatment where and when you need it would be easier. Today, there are even more children like Assia still waiting.
The Canadian Institute of Health Information recently released data showing that children and youth with mental health disorders are increasingly seeking treatment in hospitals because they cannot access treatment in their communities. Emergency department visits for children and youth with mental health disorders and addictions has risen by 63 per cent and hospitalizations by 67 per cent in Ontario — rates are higher than the national average.
Children's Mental Health Ontario (CMHO), the Elementary Teachers' Federation of Ontario, parent groups and youth have sounded the alarm about the crisis in accessing child and youth mental health care and its impact on education, in emergency rooms, at home and the impact of never-ending wait times. There have also been countless reports released by provincially appointed mental health advisory councils, the Mental Health Commission of Canada, Children's Mental Health Ontario (CMHO), the auditor general of Ontario, to name a few, which all call for investment in mental health prevention and early intervention community-based services, especially among youth.
The impact of anxiety and mental health issues on Ontario families goes beyond health outcomes.
CMHO is sounding the alarm again to the government of Ontario. New research from Ipsos Public Affairs shows things aren't getting better. The survey of Ontarians, parents and youth shows there is a significant number of parents in Ontario seeking mental health services for their children than previously thought (36 per cent vs. 20 per cent) and of those who do, four in 10 didn't get the help they needed or are still waiting. It also showed that 62 per cent of youth are concerned about their levels of anxiety and half of parents report having ever had concerns about their child's level of anxiety. Four in 10 youth have sought mental health services, and nearly half of them were not able to get the help they needed.