Waitlists for youth mental health services rises to 28,000 under Ford government, report says
An estimated 28,000 children and youth in Ontario are waiting for mental health services, said a new report released by Children’s Mental Health Ontario on Monday.
The same report was released in 2017 and at that time found 12,000 children and youth were on a waiting list which means the number has doubled in two years.
According to the report, suicide is the second leading cause of death among young people in Ontario and wait times could be up to 2.5 years.
Kimberly Moran, the Chief Executive Officer for Children’s Mental Health Ontario, said in a Canadian Press report that rising rates of depression and anxiety among children and youth and years of under-funding have contributed to the rise in wait times.
“It’s frustrating from a service provider’s perspective,” Moran said.
“They understand that when we wait, kids can get more ill and they watch that happen … and I think families are just outraged that they have to wait this long.”
Healthcare providers and CHMO are urging Premier Doug Ford’s government to fulfill its promise to invest more money in child and youth mental health care treatment.
Ford’s office announced last year that it will be spending around $1.9 billion on mental health care.
Jessica Behnke, Director, Strategic Relations and Communications at Children’s Mental Health Ontario, told Humber News on Monday that they are worried about the length of time and the number of youth that are waiting for mental health care.
‘Getting a lot worse’
‘This isn’t a new problem but our report shows it’s getting a lot worse,” said Behnke.
“We know that stigma is reducing and more young people are comfortable reaching out for help,” she said.
“Compared to 30 years ago, three times as many youth and parents are identifying a need for professional help for child and youth mental health and at the same time funding has been cut in half over the past 25 years — so you have rising demand and restricted resources,” she said.
Mark Ferro, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioural Neurosciences professor at McMaster University, told Humber News he hopes people reading the report will understand there is a pressing need for child and youth mental services.
“The longer children and families wait there is a potential for the deteration of an individuals health and wellbeing,” said Ferro.
“I’d like to see more investment in primary prevention strategies at the public health level,” he said.
Both Behnke and Ferro stressed the fact that they advise youth and their families to not give up on getting help despite the long wait times.
“If you’re in crisis, definitely go to the hospital right away,” said Behnke.
“We don’t want people to be deterred from getting help. Anyone who is worried about their mental health should reach out straight away.”
CMHO is encouraging those who want to help to contact the Ontario government and use the hashtag #kidscantwait on social media to support the movement.