Helping Children and Youth with Mental Health Issues
As Dr. Stan Kutcher, Medical Advisor for the Canadian Psychiatric Research Foundation’s Youth Project, has stated, “Nowhere is the need more acute for rational, scientifically sound and clearly presented information appropriately delivered, than in the arena of youth mental health promotion.” To highlight this point, a recent Secondary School Mental Health Screening Project pilot, funded through the Canadian Psychiatric Research Foundation (CPRF), found that 18.2 percent of the 5,500 students screened were at risk for mental health issues. A more recent study, released by the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health in Toronto, shows that one in three youth has already reported some form of impaired mental health.
For several years, CPRF’s Education Committee had been offering school programs for parents, teachers and students wanting to learn more about mental health issues and about related behaviours they did not understand. It was through this work that the committee learned of the need for concrete reference guides on mental disorders that contained strategies for coping, as well as additional resources for teachers, parents and others working with young people.
To answer this need, the committee recruited another group of parents, educators, social workers, school psychologists, school administrators and psychiatrists for a project called When Something’s Wrong. Phase I of this project resulted in the best-selling handbook When Something’s Wrong, Ideas for Teachers – made possible by many corporate, academic and community partners. It was launched in May 2001 at CPRF’s first Open Mind conference, attended by over 300 people, and featuring speakers who are experts in the mental health issues outlined in the handbook (e.g., anxiety disorders, depression, eating disorders and schizophrenia).
As Phase I of the project continued to evolve, the number of communities and sectors to partner with CPRF for the benefit of young people grew, and continues to grow.
Another Open Mind conference was held in May 2002. Once again, educators, parents, social workers, youth workers and public health professionals had the opportunity to hear Canada’s top specialists discuss advances in the treatment of mental health issues.
The success of Phase I provided the impetus not only for a nationwide tour, but the start to a second handbook, When Something’s Wrong, Ideas for Families. The four-city tour was a huge success in spreading information on youth and mental illness. It began in Vancouver in April of 2003, and culminated with the Open Mind conference in Toronto in May 2003.
When Something’s Wrong, Ideas for Families, is now complete! Education and training sessions around the content in this comprehensive handbook are now underway. It contains new sections on managing problem behaviour in children, bipolar disorder, borderline personality disorder, suicide, working with your health practitioner and many more resources. It contains coping strategies for parents and caregivers to help them manage with their own children who have mental health issues, but the handbook is also useful for teachers and counsellors who work with these families.
CPRF works with many sectors in Canada, including education, social services and health, to bring scientifically sound research and information to those working with our youth. CPRF’s projects help to send the key message that early identification and intervention of mental health issues can greatly improve outcomes for the one in five Canadians affected.
CPRF’s next When Something’s Wrong handbook will be created for use in the workplace and the next Open Mind conference will take place on April 26th, 2006, in Toronto.
Krista Saleh, BSc., MBA, is an independent contractor with over 15 years’ work experience in the government, corporate and non-profit sectors. Health promotion has remained one of her core interests, and she is currently Project Director with the Canadian Psychiatric Research Foundation.
For more information on CPRF research, publications, activities, events, or how to donate, please visit the new and improved website at www.cprf.ca. The When Something’s Wrong handbooks can be ordered from the CPRF website or by calling the CPRF office at 416-351-7757 or toll-free at 1-800-915-2773.
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