News / Toronto

Ontario youth seeking mental health care options

More young people are seeking help from community mental health clinics with an average of 10 per cent more clients coming through doors across Ontario in the last three years.

The statistic tells two sides of the ongoing fight to improve mental health, says Kim Moran, president and CEO of Children’s Mental Health Ontario.

It’s proof, in part, that efforts to reduce stigma are working and it’s a positive sign for the future.

“It means they will have a much more productive life, instead of ending up in social assistance systems,” Moran said, noting that one in five children struggles with mental health.

It’s also another reminder of the pressures young people are facing today.

Studies show that at least 10 per cent of high school students in the province have considered suicide, Moran said.

Also, increased access to information in a world driven by social media is a recipe for exploitation and cyberbullying, said David O’Brien, clinical services supervisor at East Metro Youth Services. That often leads to more anxiety, more stress and depression.

And, if young people themselves aren’t stressed, there’s a good chance their parents are, O’Brien said, explaining that many are struggling to stay afloat in the harsh economy.

Simply put: “The youth are dealing with more issues today than ever before,” he said.

The community walk-in clinic O’Brien oversees in Scarborough saw about 15 clients a week when it opened in 2011. A record 1,400 young people were served last year, and hours were recently extended to Saturdays.

The clinic is designed to give youth an opportunity to talk about their problems before they become too complex to manage. Such spots are “better equipped” to help in some cases than hospitals, O’Brien said.

“We are taking away the barriers,” he said. “Young people come in and have a chance to talk about important things on their mind, whether it’s sports, school challenges or family issues.”

Those in need of longer-term counseling can spend up to a year waiting for help, Moran said.

“That is totally unacceptable,” she said. “For a kid looking for consistent help, these issues need to be dealt with a lot sooner.”

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