There is a pressing need to improve our ability to promote mental health, prevent mental health challenges and effectively treat mental disorders in children and youth in Canada.
Consider these facts:
Mental health challenges affect 15% of Canadian children and youth – four to five students in every classroom of 30 across the nation struggle in the classroom, in making friends, in participating in activities and in functioning in their families.
At least three out of five children and youth with mental health challenges are not receiving mental health services – that’s approximately 1.6 million children and youth in Canada.
- There is currently no formal mechanism to engage families of children and youth with mental health issues to contribute to policies, research, programs and practices related to child and youth mental health.
Family Input Matters
The family is the major decision maker in a child's life. Active involvement of families at all levels of the mental health system helps to ensure meaningful outcomes for children, youth and their families.
Families are uniquely positioned to contribute to increasing the capacity of the mental health care system. How? Through collaboration with service providers, policy makers and other families based on their personal experiences and their motivation to improve outcomes for their own children and others.
Family engagement is critical to effectively treating and supporting young people to regain and maintain their mental health, according to current research.
Yet Canadian policy makers often have limited or no access to the voice of families. They need to hear the family perspective when creating policies that will have a direct impact on families with children and youth with mental health challenges.
This also applies to health care professionals. Many professionals working in the formal system of care fully recognize the benefits and seek ways of engaging families to develop system capacity and improve care.