May 7th is National Child and Youth Mental Health Day in Canada – a day created by FamilySmart to highlight the ongoing need to dedicate support and resources to the mental health and wellness of our young people. With COVID-19 and physical distancing now into its third month, this focus is now an even greater imperative, with increased risk of children and youth experiencing depression, anxiety and other mental health challenges.
Since 2017, a group of physicians have been working to improve care and access to services for child and youth mental health as part of a Child and Youth Mental Health and Substance Use (CYMHSU) Community of Practice (CoP), funded by Doctors of BC and the BC Ministry of Health through the Shared Care Committee.
The CoP has grown to 250 members which includes family physicians, psychiatrists, pediatricians, ER physicians, as well as ministry partners.
Dr Matt Chow, a Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist, and one of the founding members of the CoP, speaks to the value of the CoP’s efforts to build relationships between physicians, government, schools, and community partners, prior to the pandemic:
“Because we built relationships in a relaxed and peaceful time, and broke down those silos, we’ve been able to respond quickly and efficiently to emerging priorities.”
Chow is referring to a virtual meeting on April 2nd that was quickly convened by the CoP bringing together 32 partners involved in child and youth mental health across the province. Partners included the BC Pediatric Society, BC School Counsellors Association, CMHA, FamilySmart, Foundry, health authorities, and many others. Discussions centred on challenges arising from the COVID crisis in delivering services, actions to be taken to ensure supports are available, and urgent priorities faced by organizations and how to help. Gaps in care were identified.
“Our CoP has identified vulnerable populations such as youth without access to the internet, indigenous youth, youth with developmental challenges, and youth living in situations of neglect and abuse. The CoP is advocating for these groups to receive priority attention and are connecting with organizations that could help. We need to address barriers and blindspots now more than ever.”
Dr Chow stressed the commitment of the CoP to continue working with partners during the pandemic and in the future:
“As physicians we are just one part of a large community caring for children and youth. We know that we need to work with all our partners to ensure that our actions are coordinated, and that services are reaching those that need them the most right now.”
If you’re a physician interested in joining the CYMHSU Community of practice, please contact