LETTER: Government mental health plan good for youth

Angela Giesbrecht of North Delta applauds the B.C. government's recent announcement of a three-year mental health plan.

Dear Editor,

A recent news article, “B.C. unveils three year mental health plan” (NDR, Feb. 20), shared that the B.C. government has plans to take better care of the growing number of children and youth with mental illnesses. It included plans to make more mental services for children and youth.

This is important, as Canadian youth are most in need of mental health services. In a 2012 Canadian survey, there were more youth aged 15 to 24 identified as having mood and substance use disorders than the rest of the population. Around 514,800 youth had depression at some point in their life.

Further, the second leading cause of death for youth is suicide. Around 234,00 youth reported that they had planned how they would commit suicide and about 187,200 youth had attempted to commit suicide at some time in their life. Half of these youth also had depression at some point in their life. As well, mental illnesses have often been related to other youth health issues like accidents, which then impact a youth’s family, peers, schools and community.

These statistics are more than numbers. They show that many youth experience mental illness and/or its effects personally. It appears that the B.C. government is taking these issues seriously as their budget included improving mental health services for youth. In different healthcare settings, it has been helpful to identify the mental illnesses that youth have as soon as possible and then act to care for youth properly.

If a person has a mental illness, they will probably experience its symptoms by the time they are 24 years old. When treatment works for youth, it may benefit their life, and the health of Canadians, as it may reduce their disability, as well as increase the chance that they will succeed in their career and have a good quality of life.

Despite youths’ massive need for mental health services, they often cannot access them. Some of the B.C. government’s mental health plan may or may not make these services more available for youth in the future. For example, part of their plan is to open a psychiatric unit with 10 beds where children and youth can stay to get help with their mental health. Youth often do not belong or are treated unfriendly when they get help where children or adults are being taken care of. Having 10 beds in a children’s and youth’s psychiatric unit may help youth more, if they are treated better than they are in the hospital unit meant only for children.

Some mental illnesses may need to be reconsidered so that youth can get the help they need. For example, one Canadian study advised that youth with schizophrenia should have their mental health checked throughout their life because this mental illness is present in people long term. This may help these youth return to psychiatric units less often as they are currently returning about twice as much as youth without schizophrenia. This study seems to imply that this would better help youth with schizophrenia. Further, it may also make more beds at a psychiatric unit available for other youth who need help.

It is encouraging that the B.C. government planned to make mental services more available and accessible for youth, who experience and/or are influenced by mental illness. Their mental health plan should also consider current research to improve treatment and make it more open for youth to access it.

Sincerely,

Angela Giesbrecht

North Delta