Addressing children and youth mental health issues

Dr. Ian Manion, C.Psych.
Executive Director, Ontario Centre of Excellence for Child and Youth Mental Health

What’s the Issue?
Child and youth mental health is an issue of international importance. Seventy percent of mental disorders first appear before the age of 18, 50% before age 14. Although an estimated 15-20% of children and youth have a diagnosable mental illness, only about one in six actually get the mental health services that they need. Although stigma is a major barrier to service access, lack of knowledge about mental health and illness, inadequate availability of services and the lack of a system of care that is easy to access and navigate are also contributors. Many youth are left suffering in silence. For example, up to 45% of young men who experience suicidal thoughts and behaviours do not seek help. The results are tragic: suicide accounts for the greatest number of non-accidental deaths in Canadian youth.

What’s the Research?
Dr. Manion’s program of research has spanned the last 20 years and focuses on the meaningful engagement of young people and those involved in their care (families, service providers across sectors) across the full continuum, including mental health promotion, mental illness prevention and early identification and prevention. It has targeted our understanding of risk and protective factors for a variety of mental health issues, such as youth depression and suicide. The research program has also led to the development, implementation and evaluation of programs and practices, such as Youth Net / Réseau Ado, aimed at addressing mental health issues. This research has been community-, school- and/or hospital-based. All of the research team’s work has been driven by applied questions and undertaken in partnership with young people and their families, practitioners, policy-makers and fellow researchers.

What’s the Impact?
The work on school-based mental health has had a direct impact on the development of the provincial mental health strategy in the province of Ontario and the School-Based Mental Health ASSIST program currently being implemented and evaluated province-wide. The Youth Net / Réseau Ado program has been replicated throughout Canada as well as in a site in the UK. The work on youth engagement is informing policy and practice internationally. It has led directly to the development, implementation and evaluation of youth engagement training for mental health service providers across the province of Ontario. The youth suicide research has led to the development of learning and development tools for those who work with youth across sectors (education, youth justice, health, child welfare and mental health). It has also contributed to provincial and national efforts to establish youth suicide prevention awareness campaigns as well regional, provincial and national policies and practices. Finally, these combined research efforts have contributed to the whole-community approach to youth mental health care proposed by the Canadian Youth Network for Innovation in Mental Health in response to the national Transformational Research in Adolescent Mental Health initiative, a partnership of the Graham Boeckh Foundation and CIHR.

Links to Other Resources

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