Mental health in $1.5 billion deficit

Kacie Cooper
By Kacie Cooper March 23, 2018 15:25

Mental health in $1.5 billion deficit

Sculpture outside of Maryvale Adolescent and Family Services. (Photo courtesy of Maryvale)

By Kacie Cooper

Good things grow in Ontario — unless it’s the province’s budget for mental health.

Maryvale Adolescent and Family Services is a children’s mental health treatment centre in Windsor.

In the past 15 years, they haven’t seen a single budget increase, despite the added cost of expenses in that time, according to Executive Director Connie Martin.

“There’s absolutely not enough money and not enough resources,” said Martin, who has worked at the centre for the past 35 years. “Children’s mental health services in Ontario are not mandated.”

While mental illness accounts for about 10 per cent of the burden of disease in Ontario, it receives just seven per cent of healthcare dollars, according to a report done by Health Quality Ontario and the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences.

The report states mental healthcare in Ontario is underfunded by about $1.5 billion.

Martin said having unresolved distress due to a mental illness can affect children’s self-esteem and confidence for their entire lives and their ability to form lasting relationships.

“These children don’t develop emotionally, and it affects their mental health long-term,” said Martin. “It certainly hurts them and their families, but in the long run it affects their communities too.”

Individuals with a mental illness are more likely to be unemployed and the rates are as high as 70 to 90 per cent for people with severe mental illnesses, according to the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health.

Percy Hatfield said he has been an advocate for children’s mental health and the need for more resources. The Windsor-Tecumseh MPP has worked with Maryvale closely to push the provincial government to grant more funding.

“It’s shameful,” said Hatfield. “Why does it take six months or more for children who have attempted suicide or harmed themselves to receive professional help?”

The Canadian Mental Health Association reports that Canada’s youth suicide rate is the third highest in the industrialized world.

“For the past 15 years the Liberals have ignored children’s and youth’s mental health,” said Hatfield. “As children and youth grow older, if the issues aren’t identified, they become compounded.”

As many as one in five children and youth in Ontario will experience some form of mental health problem and five out of six will not receive the treatment they need, according to Children’s Mental Health Ontario.

Kimberly Morand is the mother of a nine-year-old with severe OCD and Tourette’s Syndrome. Her son was diagnosed at the age of seven, and they have spent more than eight months over the past two years waiting for him to receive proper care. She said the wait and the stress from it has been excruciating.

“Once we got access to the services they were wonderful, but the wait times have been horrendous,” said Morand. “I would love to see those wait times shortened.”

Morand and her son’s journey for care started in Windsor, but shortly after, she realized she would need to look elsewhere for treatment and therapy specialized to his mental health needs. Since then, they have been attending therapy in London, which required more waiting beforehand.

Morand said the cost and time spent commuting to and from London has definitely added another level of stress to their family, but said it’s worth it if it means her son can receive proper care.

“It’s painful to watch your child suffer. You feel alone,” said Morand. “I hope things change in Windsor. We need more resources so that other families like us don’t have to suffer.”

Kacie Cooper
By Kacie Cooper March 23, 2018 15:25

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