Youth Mental Health Blog

file000536909779In the second mental health blog I’d like to draw attention to the lack of important services for youth mental health in New Brunswick. Because we do not have adequate youth mental health support, people are stuck trying to navigate a flawed and confusing system. Referral, and therefore access to mental health professionals is hard to come by. Our hospitals are not equipped to deal effectively with mental health, especially for youth. Pediatric do not provide mental health services and cannot accommodate young people struggling with mental illness. The psychiatric ward in Fredericton is for adults and may not be the right environment for children and youth. Often, in order to receive the help they need, youth struggling with mental illness are forced to leave New Brunswick, seeking medical help in other provinces or the US. This can cost a fortune for families and for the province

Youth are often forced to gain access to mental health support through the criminal justice system. In some cases, families must file charges and criminalize their loved ones in order to get them the help they need. Even then, youth struggling with serious mental illness can be sent to group homes which may or may not provide the specialized treatment needed.

The report, Connecting the Dots, issued by the office of the Child and Youth Advocate in 2007, tells the story of seven youth who struggled to receive the help they needed for their mental illnesses. In addition to the challenges they faced regarding their mental health, many of them found themselves isolated due to the stigma associated with mental health. None received adequate treatment or support in New Brunswick. Not much has changed since this report was drafted. There is a failure to provide youth with mental health services in our province and to educate young people on mental illness to end the stigma.

A mental health facility for youth is currently being built in Campbellton, New Brunswick, to open in the fall of 2017. This facility is a step in the right direction, however there are concerns that co-locating it with the adult facility for those suffering from complex psychiatric problems, particularly those who have become violent, will only increase the stigma associate with mental health for the youth who need to use the facility. This facility will help the handful of youth most in need, however little is being done to address access and stigma for youth suffering from less severe mental illness.

In the next blog I will be focusing on mental illnesses which are more stigmatized and which need specialized services. The following week I will focus on eating disorders and related gaps in service. If you have had experiences trying to navigate the health care system to address your own mental health, we’d love to hear your story. Feel free to share it to this page. It is only through speaking openly about our own experiences that we will be able to eliminate the stigma that holds us all back.