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Supporting mental health in our children and youth

March 13, 2017

I recently had the honour of attending and addressing the final Congress of the Child and Youth Mental Health and Substance Use (CYMHSU) Collaborative – a two day event that focused on the Collaborative’ s achievements, its legacy, and the pathway ahead. 

For those not yet familiar with their work, the Child and Youth Mental Health and Substance Use Collaborative was created here in BC in 2013 with a single primary goal – to improve the lives of children, youth and families struggling with mental health and substance use issues by ensuring these young people receive timely access to the integrative services and supports they require to overcome and manage their challenges. For the last four years, the CYMHSU Collaborative has been tackling issues around the rather siloed, confusing and challenging access to care that children and youth experience, and has worked to make it easier for youth, families and health care providers to access services and supports before a crisis arises. And through the strong commitment and dedication of all those involved, it has made a difference in the lives of thousands of children and youth throughout BC.

The key to this initiative’s success lies in its partnerships – partnerships that include Doctors of BC via the Shared Care, General Practice Services, and Specialist Services Committees, the Ministries of Health, Children and Family Development, and Education, the First Nations Health Council, and all seven health authorities. Most importantly it involves parents, youth, family doctors, psychiatrists, paediatricians, social workers, school counsellors, Aboriginal services, health administrators, and RCMP officers. What began as only eight Local Action Teams in the Interior has grown into one of the largest initiatives of its kind spanning across the province and involving nearly 3,000 people, with 64 established Local Action Teams and 11 Working Groups. Accomplishments to be very proud of!

And while the initiative itself will wrap up by December 2017, the impact of its work will continue and be essential to its sustainability – with grassroots community partnerships, new ways of communicating and collaborating and the increased awareness and reduced stigma for those living with mental health. Many Local Action Teams involved from early on have now already laid down pathways for collaborative frameworks in their communities. Others may still have a ways to go. But significant efforts are underway through to the end of the year to ensure that recognized and valuable pathways are embedded and supported in all communities so that this work – this movement toward system change supporting our children and youth – will live on.

I’d like to thank everyone involved in the CYMHSU Collaborative for joining us on this journey and most of all your ongoing commitment to the children and youth of our province – your work is inspiring and has touched, changed and influenced the lives of so many. 


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