In response to the Toronto Star Article Patients Suffer Over Gap Between Physical & Mental Health Care

The loss of Alex Hurst is a painful reminder that Ontario is not prioritizing youth in desperate need of mental healthcare. His mother bravely spoke to the Toronto Star to highlight and urge the government to provide better healthcare for thousands of other kids like Alex.

This issue is important to me because my 11 year old daughter became severely depressed, and suicidal. After three years of very intensive treatment, she is a happy and healthy 16 year old. With the right help, kids can recover from very serious mental illness. But without the right help, they can die by suicide.

Ontarians should be able to access high quality mental health services as easily as they do physical healthcare. A youth who is severely depressed should be able to get help as easily as if they had a life-threatening physical illness such as cancer.

There are specialized youth mental health services in Ontario that help youth that have serious mental health problems. More than 85 publicly-funded accredited child & youth mental health centres across the province provide treatment for kids with serious mental illness. Experienced youth mental health professionals work with child psychiatrists to assess and treat children and youth like Alex.

However, access to care is at crisis levels due to chronic under-funding of child & youth mental health centres which has led to long wait times, sometimes as long as 18 months. Children’s Mental Health Ontario released a report in November showing excessive wait times across the province.

Ontario needs mandatory minimums for wait times and a coordinated referral system to ensure that family physicians, schools, hospitals and families themselves know how and when to access these specialized mental health services. We have recommended that concerned Ontarians write a letter to Premier Wynne calling on her to take action. We have developed an easy templated letter that can be sent electronically.

But, unless the government of Ontario makes children's mental health a priority, youth like Alex, won’t get the immediate and often life-saving treatment they deserve.