New program delivers timely mental health care for youth

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It is estimated that 10-20 per cent of Canadian youth are affected by a mental illness or disorder at some point in their life, with the most common being depression and anxiety. Today, approximately five per cent of male youth and 12 per cent of female youth, age 12 to 19, have experienced a major depressive episode. In Peel Region, eight per cent of students had seriously considered suicide in the past year, with three per cent having attempted suicide in the past 12 months.

At Trillium Health Partners’ Mississauga and Credit Valley Hospitals, the majority of all mental health visits come through the Emergency Department (ED), with seven per cent being patients under the age of 17. In just the past three years, there has been a significant increase in mental health visits to the hospital. As a result, the hospital’s long-standing Child and Adolescent Mental Health Program recently added the Paediatric Mental Health Urgent Care Program, supported by the RBC Foundation. The program opened its doors in November of 2014, and provides rapid support to children and youth who come through the hospital’s emergency departments with a mental health concern.

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“We started this program with the goal of preventing hospitalization for children and youth with acute mental health conditions; our interprofessional urgent care team is often ready to support these patients within less than 72 hours. The short response time can make the difference between life and death for some patients,” explains Dr. Louis Peltz, Lead Psychiatrist, Trillium Health Partners’ Paediatric Mental Health Urgent Care Program. Children and youth treated through Trillium Health Partners’ Paediatric Urgent Care program can quickly see a crisis social worker, occupational therapist, psychologist, and speech language pathologist, without having to be admitted into the hospital.

“Urgent care is often the most effective care, especially for teenagers; it is when they are at a tipping point that they are commonly most receptive to treatment,” says Jennifer Wowk, Social Worker with Trillium Health Partners’ Paediatric Mental Health Urgent Care Program. The hospital’s new interprofessional Paediatric Urgent Care Program allows families in crisis to receive the support they need away from the busy ED, offering a comfortable, safe environment.

“Chronic school absenteeism, lack of friends, poor social skills, isolation, family stress, in some cases suicidality, the list of complications for youth suffering from anxiety and depression is long and daunting to handle,” adds Wowk. “When patients come in to see us, things have often escalated to a critical point, and we need to do all that we can to respond in the most timely way to support these patients and their families.”

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“Mental health difficulties in childhood and young adulthood can significantly impact a person’s ability to cope and enjoy life even in adulthood,” says Dr. Peltz. “Seeing our young patients recover so that they have fun again, succeed in school and in their relationships, and get back to the things they enjoy has been the most rewarding part of helping them through our program.”

In the words of one of the patients, “People at the Trillium Health Partners Paediatric Mental Health clinic were very helpful and nice. I felt like they really understood me.” Together with our community partners, Trillium Health Partners supports over 6000 children and youth in the region through its Mental Health and Paediatric Urgent Care Program.