If a child has a serious asthma attack or breaks a bone, parents know exactly where to go for help. But when it comes to depression, anxiety or an array of other conditions that affect the mental health of children, knowing where to turn can be difficult.
And often, the confusion and stigma surrounding mental health prevents many from seeking help in the first place.
The result? Of the 84,000 children and youth experiencing mental health conditions in the province, a staggering 70 per cent aren’t getting the specialized care they need.
Mental health conditions can affect every part of a child’s daily life: they may miss school, avoid social activities, or be impacted in countless other ways. And yet, when these conditions are recognized and treated earlier, it can change the trajectory of a child’s life. It can mean the difference between suffering in silence—and stepping out of the darkness to achieve one’s full potential.
“If we were to say two of every three children with diabetes or cancer wouldn’t receive specialized health care services, it would be unacceptable,” said Dr. Jana Davidson, psychiatrist in chief at BC Children’s Hospital. “We’re working incredibly hard to change that for mental health.”
BC Children’s Hospital, through the support of donors, has already taken big steps forward in the quest to help transform mental health care. This includes enhancing programs within the hospital and supporting initiatives designed to help more kids throughout the province receive specialized care.
“The children and youth of today are our future leaders,” added Dr. Davidson. “For those who experience mental health disorders, getting them the right mental health support can change the way they live their lives and ensure they reach that potential.”
“For those who experience mental health disorders, getting them the right mental health support can change the way they live their lives and ensure they reach that potential.” – Dr. Jana Davidson, psychiatrist in chief at BC Children’s Hospital
What’s been done so far
Through the support of generous donors—including guests at the annual Crystal Ball Gala—BC Children’s has made great strides in helping to improve mental health care.
While physically located in Vancouver, BC Children’s is on a mission to help kids from all across the province.
One way that’s being done is through Compass. The initiative has established a direct line between community care providers and an expert mental health team at BC Children’s, who can help guide them on each patient's unique needs. For example, a doctor in Prince George, whose young patient is struggling with depression, is able to call and receive guidance on the resources available to best support that child or consult with an expert about that child’s care.
This means more kids who are struggling with mental health challenges can receive the right care at the right time in their home community.
By establishing and enhancing programs, more kids and families struggling with mental health challenges are getting the tools needed to reach their full potential.
This includes an integrated pain program that identifies kids living with chronic and acute pain who may have an increased risk of mental health challenges. It also includes hospital-wide mindfulness initiatives that help kids develop skills to manage stress and anxiety, help families build resiliency, and support health care professionals in providing compassionate care.