Health N.B. parents frustrated by barriers to mental health supports for youth, says advocate
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New Brunswick's child and youth advocate says he's found there's frustration among parents seeking supports for their suicidal children and teens, as part of a review he's doing on how to improve access to mental health care for youth.
Since launching his Youth Suicide Prevention and Mental Health Services Review in March, Norm Bossé said he heard from parents across 10 communities, including a Wolastoqey and a Mi'kmaw First Nation, and found that parents in each were frustrated with the lack of support they received for a child struggling with mental illness.
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"What we learned there is that there is a frustration — not just here in Fredericton, [but] all over the province — with respect to health care, mental health care for children and youth, and that it's almost the same no matter where you are," he said.
"People in the communities that we spoke to, parents, mothers and fathers who'd lost their children, mothers and fathers who tried to use the facilities close to where they live, the emergency rooms. They were completely frustrated with the lack of help that they could get there."
An interim report by Bossé that contains 10 recommendations was released Thursday.
Bossé's review was launched after 16-year-old Lexi Daken went to the emergency room at the Dr. Everett Chalmers Regional Hospital in February and asked for mental health help. After waiting for eight hours at the Fredericton hospital, she left without getting any mental health interventions. She died by suicide a week later.
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In speaking with parents as part of his review, Bossé said there's a desire to establish networks of "wraparound care" in communities that can help youth before they get to a point where they need to seek treatment at a hospital ER.
"Many of them said, you know, 'We can do better than that right here in our communities. I don't necessarily want to take my daughter, who's in mental health crisis, to the emergency room,'" said Bossé.
Video: New report calls on N.B. for better mental health training after teen’s suicide (Global News)
Of his 10 recommendations so far, Bossé said the most important is ensuring those who treat youth mental illness are properly trained.
Bossé said boosting funding for a community support program, known as Le Maillon, or The Link in English, should also be a priority, as he heard from stakeholders who said it was working.
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Trans and non-binary youth in Canada continue to experience targeted violence and discrimination, however, according to the 2019 Canadian Trans and Non-binary Youth Health Survey, they are thriving despite these experiences. We see this experience of thriving through more prominent representation of trans and non-binary folks such as Elliot Page, Laverne Cox, Janelle Monáe and more, who share their joy but also share the struggles they have faced. At the Stigma and Resilience Among Vulnerable Youth Centre (SARAVYC), a research centre at the University of British Columbia, our goal is to identify factors that foster youth resilience in spite of stigma.
Other recommendations include:
- Improving wellness and mental health support curriculum in schools.
- Improving services in First Nation communities and for urban Indigenous youth and children.
- Maintaining and expanding the integrated service delivery model for mental health, which has already been implemented in schools in the province.
Bossé's interim recommendations come just weeks after Health Minister Dorothy Shephard announced 21 changes her government planned to make to fix the province's broken mental health-care system, which included better training for health-care staff and improving hospitals' emergency response to patients in crisis.
Bossé said some of the interim recommendations he put forth are based on recommendations from previous reports, and touch on existing programs that need to be improved on.
His final report, containing more long-term recommendations, is set to be released by the end of July.
If you are in crisis or know someone who is, here is where to get help:
CHIMO hotline: 1-800-667-5005/
Kids Help Phone: 1-800-668-6868, Live Chat counselling at
Canada Suicide Prevention Service: 1-833-456-4566
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