Judy Darcy, Minister of Mental Health and Addictions; Katrine Conroy, Minister of Children and Family Development; and Rob Fleming, Minister of Education; have released the following statement in recognition of National Child and Youth Mental Health Day:
“Every child has the right to mental-health care when and where they need it. And it is our responsibility, as the adults in their lives, to ensure they get it. Today is Child and Youth Mental Health Day – a day for parents, educators, caretakers and the community as a whole to come together to talk about child and youth mental health and to connect with young people about their mental health. The theme for this year is ‘caring’ and the message is simple: ‘I care about you.’
“It could not be a more-perfect message for these unprecedented and uncertain times. Up to 84,000 children in British Columbia are experiencing a mental health challenge at any given time. Even before COVID-19, B.C. faced an increased demand for child and youth mental health services. Last year alone, 28,000 children and youth received help. This year, that number is expected to be much higher.
“While the pandemic is challenging all of us, it presents unique issues for young people who are missing their friends and social connections, wrestling with new ways of learning and feeling anxious and unsure about what the future holds. Many have seen abrupt endings to things they have worked toward, or anticipated, for years.
“But the pandemic has also shown us that people have an incredible ability to come together – to create community and lift each other up in times of crisis. We are reminded that it does, indeed, take a village to raise a child and that raising a child means caring for the whole child – their physical health and their mental health.
“We have seen that remarkable caring for children from so many people. Teachers are reaching out to students to see how they are doing while also supporting remote learning. School staff are planning creative ways to recognize graduates. Counsellors and support workers are checking in regularly with vulnerable young people. Parents and caregivers are doing everything they can to strengthen caring and social connections because they know that mental well-being is the primary goal right now and well into the future.
“And, across government, it is a goal we share to ensure that every young person is able to build a solid foundation for long-term mental health. A year ago, we launched A Pathway to Hope – our roadmap to creating a system of mental health and addictions care that works for everyone. Prevention and early intervention, catching emerging problems before they become larger, was a main focus.
“Since announcing the pathway, we have made big strides to provide better mental health care and supports for children, youth and their families. We have increased the number of Foundry locations in the province to nine up and running, and the tenth is on the way. We are building child and youth mental health teams in our school districts. We are expanding the Erase (Expect Respect and Safe Education) program in our schools, and we are working to hire an additional 120 child and youth mental health workers over three years.
“Recognizing the mental health challenges brought on or exacerbated by COVID-19, we have also worked with our partners to launch Foundry Virtual Clinic and to expand access to BounceBack and Living Life to the Full programs. To give parents and caregivers practical advice and strategies to help children deal with anxiety, we have adapted the Everyday Anxiety Strategies for Educators (EASE) at Home program, making it available free online for everyone. We have minimized face-to-face contact at our walk-in clinics and are offering supports and resources virtually using Skype and telephone. Mental health clinicians throughout the province continue to be available to help children and families at no cost, should they require additional support or guidance.
“These extraordinary times have challenged our children in ways they have not seen in their lifetimes – in ways few people have seen. But where there is challenge, there is also the opportunity to make lasting change and to come back better and stronger. More than ever, young people are talking openly and honestly about their mental health.
“As the adults in their lives, we must continue to applaud and encourage these courageous conversations while providing the supports they need. By doing that, we send a very clear message when it comes to the mental health of our children: ‘We care about you.’ Each and every one of you.”
Child and Youth Mental Health Resources:
Child and Youth Mental Health intake clinics:
Ministry of Education Keep Learning website: https://www.openschool.bc.ca/keeplearning/
Ministry of Children and Family Development:
Family Smart: https://familysmart.ca/
BounceBack and Living Life to the Full: https://cmha.bc.ca/covid-19/