Children’s Health: Kids need better mental health care

Pediatricians’ group points to provincial and territorial shortcomings in resource planning

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The provinces and territories are taking a piecemeal approach to the mental health of children and youth, according to a report by the Canadian Paediatric Society (CPS).

“Over a million children have significant mental health issues in Canada — one in seven,” says Dr. Andrew Lynk, a community pediatrician from Cape Breton, N.S., who wrote the report, called “Are We Doing Enough? A Status Report on Canadian Public Policy and Child and Youth Health.”

“We see a huge patchwork and deficits of services across the country. We just don’t see evidence of good provincial and territorial planning in terms of adequate resources and services in place so children won’t have to wait long periods of time for needed services,” Lynk says. “If we don’t treat the children now, we’ll all pay dearly later on when they become adults who are not functioning well as parents, as workers and as citizens.”

“As a community pediatrician, at least 15 to 20 per cent of what I see every day has a mental health component — and it’s not just an individual child, but a family problem,” says Dr. Denis Leduc, a past-president of the CPS who practises in Montreal.

For mental health planning, no jurisdiction earned a rating of “excellent” in the report. Three merited “good,” eight rated “fair” and two were “poor.”

The federal government rated “fair,” with the report noting that the 2007 federal budget called for the creation of a Canadian Mental Health Commission.

One way to ensure that programs and services are harmonized across the country is for each jurisdiction to appoint a child and youth advocate, the report recommends. These positions would be independent of governments.

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