We need a Child and Youth Mental Health Program

Brawn Vividly remembers the nightmare her family experienced as they tried to find help for her brother Zach, 15, diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia. His behaviour frightened his family and that's when they began a seemingly endless journey to find him help. 

"It was awful" says Brawn. "It felt like neither he, nor our family, mattered. More often than not, he would be declined services because of his age or a lack of beds. Our family lived in constant fear of what would happen if we could not find him treatment."

Putting patients first 

In Simcoe Muskoka there is a critical need for child and youth mental health services given that as many as 16,000 area young people experience a mental illness. Since 2007, the number of days that area children and youth have spent in the region's hospitals suffering from mental health issues has tripled.

Suicide is the second leading cause of death for youth in Simcoe Muskoka.

Royal Victoria Regional Health Centre is developing plans for an inpatient unit for children and youth with outpatient and crisis support. It is a plan fully aligned with the provincial government's mental health strategy to provide fast access to high-quality services, early identification and support for vulnerable children with unique needs. 

RVH first identified the need for mental health services for children and youth in 2007. Since then we have deliberately and successfully developed the foundation necessary for a comprehensive program for the young people of this region. In fact, for the past 10 years RVH has been a strong advocate for the need of inpatient child and youth mental health and addiction services. 

RVH has the solution for the crisis currently plaguing children and youth suffering with mental illness. It is our goal to establish our own inpatient unit with affiliated outpatient services at RVH by late 2015 or early 2016 but this will rely on community support. 

70 percent of mental health problems begin during childhood and yet in North Simcoe Muskoka only one in five young people receives the help they need. Most alarming about this gap in services is that sometimes young people are sent home or admitted, inappropriately, to inpatient adult psychiatric units. 

Your help is critical - Tyler's story will tell you why

Tyler lived in a dream world. It was a place filled with terror, suspicion, paranoia and voices. 

Welcome to the world of schizophrenia. 

"I was so paranoid," says Tyler, now 19, but 17 when his episodes began. "I thought everyone with brown eyes was out to get me. My dreams were so real, so vivid, I actually thought my dreams were the real world."

While Tyler struggled with reality, his parents Dave and Sonya struggled to find answers. 

"There was really no help for us," says Dave. "We were helpless and literally didn't know what to do."

Tyler learned about the gap in services when he had a paranoid incident that required both police assistance and hospitalization on RVH's adult inpatient mental health unit. 

"As a parent, I didn't want to leave him in there. The whole thing was scary for me," says Dave. "It would have been so much better if there was a unit that was not so sterile and more comfortable for young people." 

Although their son received excellent care, Sonya agrees. 

"As a mom, there were days I cried every hour for him not knowing how to help. Imagine your child looking at you, the one person who is supposed to feel utterly safe with, and seeing in his eyes fear, mistrust and pain. It was so horrible to see." 

*Names changed for patient privacy

a clinical priority

"The burden on families is enormous and heartbreaking so, developing child and youth mental health services is one of RVH's highest clinical priorities" says Dr. Roger McIntyre, RVH's clinical director of mental health services. "What our young people need is seamless mental health services - in essence we need 'one stop shopping'. It is what our patients and families deserve. Severe and persistent mental illnesses like schizophrenia often begin in the teenage years. Providing appropriate treatments early on has been scientifically proven to have a major impact on the course of the illness."

- Dr. Roger McIntyre
  Clinical Director, RVH Mental Health Program

a comprehensive program

Highlights of the  Child and Youth Mental Health Program at RVH include: 

• A clinical director to oversee the delivery of a child and youth mental health program which includes inpatient and outpatient services.

• Strong relationship with community service providers to create a seamless system of care.

• Child and youth friendly eight-bed inpatient unit and outpatient areas.

• Capacity to admit approx. 290 inpatients a year

• Acute Day Hospital (partial hospitalization) program including interdisciplinary team.

• Crisis Team availability

Opening of the Day Program

Please click here for details on the recent opening of the Child and Youth Mental Health Day Program and information on this program at Royal Victoria Regional Health Centre.