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28 May, Sunday
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Montreal Families

Canadians urged to push for universal mental health care for youth 

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on children and adolescents, including disruption to their education, socialization, and mental health.

The terms “resilient” and “bounce back” were often mentioned about children during the pandemic, but experts are warning that the country’s kids are not alright. Many have struggled with the effects of prolonged isolation, disrupted routines, and increased stressors. The Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) wants help urging the government to give the nation’s children the mental health care they need.

The Act for Mental Health movement is calling on Canadians to demand publicly funded, free universal mental health care.

“Canada is failing our children and youth. Our kids are in crisis and parents have nowhere to turn,” says Margaret Eaton, CMHA National CEO. “It’s time we turn to the Prime Minister and demand that he Act for Mental Health to ensure community-based services and supports are properly funded and available to all Canadians free of charge, where they need them and when they need them. Our children, and everyone in Canada, deserve universal mental health care.”

People can get involved by visiting actformentalhealth.ca. Sign your name on a letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, share your story, send a tweet to the PM and other officials, or make a donation.

Studies have shown that rates of anxiety, depression, and other mental health issues increased among young people during the pandemic. But according to the CMHA, three in four children with a mental health issue can’t get the care they need — because it’s either unavailable or isn’t covered by public health insurance.

“Underfunding, patchwork services and people not knowing where to go are just some of the inequities that youth are experiencing when accessing care,” Eaton said. “Our system forces children to get very sick before we give them mental health care. This is an irrational and cruel way to offer care.”

The CMHA, along with partners BGC Canada, the country’s largest child and youth-serving charitable and community services organization, and YMCA Canada, who help 2.25 million people annually become healthier in spirit, mind, and body, are urging parents to tell the government that its work is not done. The Mental Health Commission of Canada reports that mental illness affects approximately 1.2 million of the country’s children and youth and rises to 7.5 million (about one in five Canadians) by age 25. 70 per cent of persons living with a mental illness see their symptoms begin before age 18, confirming that a mental health recovery plan with early identification and intervention is critically needed for our children and youth.

Without upfront and ongoing care, children end up in crisis in hospitals. In 2020, nearly one in four hospitalizations for children and youth ages 5 to 24 were for mental health conditions.  Kids Help Phone, Canada’s 24/7 national, free e-mental health service, has supported kids and youth more than 14 million times since the COVID-19 pandemic began. Adds Eaton, “[care] must be covered by public health insurance and available at the community level, not just in hospitals and doctor offices.”

If you or someone you know needs emergency mental health support, contact:
  • Canada Suicide Prevention Service (for anyone) at 1-833-456-4566
  • Hope for Wellness (for all Indigenous Peoples) at https://www.hopeforwellness.ca/ or at 1-855-242-3310
  • Kids Help Phone (for anyone aged 5 to 29) at https://kidshelpphone.ca/live-chat/ or text “CONNECT” to 686868
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