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UPDATED: Less than half of BC teens in crisis get needed mental health care: watchdog


  • Response from the B.C. Ministry of Health, added below.*

Less than half of B.C.'s teens in crisis get the mental health help they need, according to a new report by B.C.'s Representative for Children and Youth. Poor political leadership is the root reason, Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond argues, in Still Waiting: First Hand Experiences with Youth Mental Health Services in B.C., released this morning.

As a solution, she recommends that B.C. create a new Minister of State for Youth Mental Health. The position, if it's created, will be accountable for planning and delivering the missing services.

Researchers interviewed 853 youth, parents, caregivers and professionals, to assess how well the province helps youth, aged 16 to 18, cope with trauma, depression, anxiety, and other challenges.

The answer: not very well, according to Turpel-Lafond.

"In the process of conducting this review, it has become obvious to the Representative that the mental health system for children and youth in B.C. is actually not a system at all, but rather a patchwork of services that is inconsistent from region to region and community to community. It is confusing for youth, their families and even the professionals who serve them and, therefore, actually getting the required services is often near to impossible."

This is the third report issued by Turpel-Lafond so far this year concerning the activities of the B.C. Ministry of Children and Family Development. Others focused on problems with consistent planning for youth in care and a detailed account of one teen's appalling journey through care, which included being Tasered by police.

She also issued a regular report on critical injuries and deaths in the child protection system, noting that since 2007, 532 of these children and youth have died, just over half from natural causes.

Turpel-Lafond also recommended creating an advisory panel of regular folk involved in the care of children and youth with mental health challenges.

She noted that she expects to see a detailed operational plan by September 2013.

*In an emailed statement sent to The Tyee early this afternoon responding to the report, Health Minister Margaret MacDiarmid refers to projects that her ministry is already working on to improve mental health services.

She also pointed out that the Ministry of Children and Family Development is working on a two-year action plan that will address issues raised in the report, such as "including improving access to services and managing waitlists, improving support for families, improved transition for youth between community and hospital care, and improving the transition from youth to adult."

She also notes that the government would consider creating a Minister of State for Youth Mental Health after the May 14 election.

"Our government appreciates the work of Representative for Children and Youth in developing a detailed report on child and youth mental health services," writes MacDiarmid. "The report highlights challenges families are facing when navigating the child and youth mental health system, which government is committed to addressing."

[Editor: For Pieta Woolley's detailed report on B.C. foster care kids' long wait for mental health care published on The Tyee today, click here.]

Pieta Woolley reports on solutions to breaking the link between foster care and youth homelessness for The Tyee Solutions Society. This article was produced by Tyee Solutions Society in collaboration with Tides Canada Initiatives (TCI), with funding from the Vancouver Foundation. TCI and the Vancouver Foundation neither influence nor endorse the particular content of TSS' reporting. Other publications wishing to publish this story or other Tyee Solutions Society-produced articles, please see this website for contacts and information.

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