Feb 11, 2009

Children’s mental health: Are we paying attention?


According to the Ministry of Children and Family Development (MCFD), 15% or about 1 in 7 children in BC suffer from a mental health problem serious enough to cause significant distress and impair their development and functioning.   In children, mental illness supersedes all other health problems in terms of the numbers affected and the degreee of impairment.  Think about that.

To our credit, and thanks to the work of tireless parent and professional advocates, BC now has a child and youth mental health plan.  Funding through the Ministry of Children and Family Development for prevention, treatment and family supports has increased significantly over the past 5 years.   BC has doubled the number of children receiving mental health services to about 20,000, but another 70,000 kids are still not getting the help they need.  Think these figures might be related to the rising number of people with mental illnesses who are homeless and on the street?

Some children are born with or develop mental health problems regardless of their family or social circumstances. But cutting edge research also tells us that poverty can create physical and psychological stress leading to illness.   Children with learning disabilities who don’t get the diagnosis and specialized help they need in school are vulnerable to developing mental illnesses. [PACFOLD study]

So let’s ask these questions of anyone who wants our vote:

  • Will your government sustain and increase the funding that will keep BC’s child and youth mental health plan alive?
  • Will the erosion of funding for special needs services and supports in schools continue or be reversed in tough times?
  • Will you commit to a poverty reduction strategy for the province so we lower the risks of mental illness for more children?
  • What will you do to reduce waitlists for young children needing early intervention services?

Preventing and reducing harm while children are still developing — cost effective, smart and the right thing to do.

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