Mental health services at ‘crisis point’ for Saskatchewan. young people according to the report

The Saskatchewan Child and Youth Advocate is concerned about the gaps in mental health and addictions services for youth and young adults in the province.

Lawyer Lisa Broda released a report highlighting ‘decades-old issues’ with access and availability of supports.

“Children and youth are at a critical point trying to access and receive mental health and addictions services,” Broda said.

Mental health and addictions supports focus on “crisis response,” Broda said, which leaves out a significant number of young people who need “middle-level” supports.

The report, Desperately Waiting, identified a number of systemic challenges to accessing mental health and addictions supports for youth and young adults, including wait times, availability, transportation, language barriers and lack of culturally appropriate services for Aboriginal youth.

About 500 participants, including families, children, professionals and ministry sectors, contributed to the report’s research, according to Broda.

The system’s shortcomings have been documented for more than two decades in similar reports published by previous Saskatchewan Advocates for Children and Youth.

“We should not be satisfied with the current state of mental health and addictions service delivery,” Broda said.

“After decades of identical issues, we cannot expect outcomes to change without significant investment and the system immediately prioritizing the well-being of children.”

The report lists 14 recommendations related to community and inpatient mental health and addictions services:

  • Establish youth advisory councils within the Ministry of Health and health authorities
  • Reduce wait times for mental health and addictions services to meet or exceed public expectations
  • Fund and implement more Mental Health Counselors and Indigenous Elders/Knowledge Keepers in schools
  • Expand outreach mental health and addictions services
  • Fund and provide home support services to families who need this service to continue caring for their children at home
  • Develop “middle-tier” therapeutic residential services for children and youth
  • Evaluate and improve current models of detoxification and addictions treatment
  • Improving transitions from mental health and addictions services for children and youth to adults
  • Implementation of the electronic Mental Health and Addictions Information System
  • Move all child-serving ministries to an integrated service delivery model to improve communication and coordination of services and achieve better outcomes for mental health and addictions services
  • Develop a province-wide “Children’s Strategy” to address social and environmental factors that negatively impact the well-being of children and youth

Suicide is the second leading cause of death among youth and young adults in the country, according to Statistics Canada.

Indigenous boys are 29 times more likely to die by suicide, Broda said. Aboriginal girls are six times more likely.

Between 2010 and 221, 235 young people between the ages of 0 and 19 died by suicide, according to the Saskatchewan Coroners Service, which represents an average of about 20 youth suicides each year.

“What concerns me most is knowing that the profound impact of poor mental health and wellbeing in children and young people can tragically lead to the most serious outcomes,” Broda said. “Until young people have full and effective access to preventative mental health and addictions services, their well-being will continue to suffer.

The government received a copy of the report several weeks ago, according to Broda. The government has yet to accept or reject the recommendations.

Government officials are expected to respond to the report on Tuesday afternoon.

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