“According to the most recent information from the Mental Health Commission of Canada, more than one million, or 23 per cent of Canadians aged nine to 19, are living with a mental illness. And by some estimates, a staggering three out of four young people who have mental-health issues do not receive the help they need. At almost every turn, they encounter barriers to accessing timely and appropriate care, ranging from a lack of resources to their own reluctance to seek help due to shame, embarrassment or fear of prejudice.”
This quote from an article titled “To improve mental health, tackle problems early” from the Globe & Mail this week.
So what do we do?
A small group of youth age 15-17 who are partners in the Child & Youth Health Network have a vision…
A Youth Resource Hub
Their idea is simple: we come together create a place where youth can go & no matter what they are looking for, they can get support.
A one-stop shop.
From a professional standpoint we would frame this in terms of mental health services. The youth are fine with this, but they are clear that, for them, a resource hub would address the whole person: mind/body/spirit.
So whether a youth is
- worried about ‘a friend’s’ suicidal ideation;
- needs help with creating a resume;
- has a weird & embarrassing rash;
- is getting bullied;
- needs help with coming out;
- doesn’t know where they will sleep that night;
- is worried about their parent; or
- needs time to build trust and relationships before sharing what they are grappling with…
there is a youth-friendly place they can go where youth-friendly people will not leave until the youth is safe & a plan is in place.
That is their vision.
Other features of the hub that are important to these youth:
- A food garden where youth are welcome, can find fresh food to eat, learn how to grow food and can access indirect, low-pressure counselling from a counsellor~gardener.
- All kinds of services onsite, including (perhaps) a branch of the youth clinic, a branch of the Victoria Regional Library (designed for youth), a café (where youth can get job & life skills + affordable healthy food), mental health/addictions/counselling services, & a place to offer workshops/groups.
- Youth- & adult-led groups & workshops for youth on subjects that matter to youth: gender identity, sexuality, spirituality, etc.
- That the hub be intentionally designed to be safe for all youth, including those that may be young/sheltered. Not just an emphasis on street involved/homeless youth.
Turns out, other communities have already embraced this model. The Globe & Mail article explains:
“Such a big problem requires big solutions, especially as more young people, freed from the discrimination of previous generations, speak out and seek help. While we’ve seen increased attention and funding from various levels of government (from community boards to federal agencies), we will be left with a patchwork of initiatives unless concrete steps are taken to improve access to diagnosis and provide funding for treatment nationwide. A few initiatives under way are worthy of national attention.
One of the boldest of these initiatives seeks to radically change how young people receive mental-health treatment with the ambitious goal of driving down waiting times. Modelled after Australia’s Headspace National Youth Mental Health Foundation, the ACCESS Canada project aims to provide one-stop hubs where youth can seek the various services they need.”
What about the cost of not finding a way to effectively support children & youth who are struggling with their mental health?
“Untreated, [children & youth] risk failing at school, floundering at work, getting into trouble with the law, facing homelessness, being repeatedly hospitalized or dying by suicide.
The Mental Health Commission reports the total cost of addressing mental-health problems and illnesses over the next 30 years is expected to exceed $2.5-trillion. Yet some of these costs could be prevented. An estimated 70 per cent of mental-health problems emerge in childhood or adolescence and evidence shows the earlier they’re tackled, the better the chances of positive outcomes.”