New program helps BC family doctors treat mental health challenges in children and youth

November 15, 2012

VANCOUVER, BC –Family doctors throughout the province now have access to a new program enabling them to better treat mental health disorders in youth and children, BC Medical Association (BCMA) President Dr. Shelley Ross and Health Minister Dr. Margaret MacDiarmid announced today.

“Children suffering from mild to moderate anxiety, depression and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) are often difficult to diagnose.  In addition to their own suffering, they are often stigmatized and alienated by peers in their communities and schools,” said Dr. Shelley Ross, BCMA President.  “With this new program, family physicians will be able to better identify and manage problems early on, while working with community partners to provide a ‘wrap-around’ system of care that goes beyond the doctor’s office.”

With the emphasis on non-drug treatments first, the program provides family physicians with evidence-based tools to help them identify, assess and treat mental health disorders such as mild to moderate anxiety, ADHD and depression in younger patients.   The program also supports specialist physicians, school counsellors, and local child and youth mental health clinicians in their ability to work together to address mental health issues in youth. As well, physicians work in partnership with families to provide appropriate assessment, treatment and support. 

To date, about 100 family doctors have participated in the program alongside pediatricians, psychiatrists, child and youth mental health clinicians, and school counsellors, and the program provides ongoing supports to work collaboratively within their local areas.

“As a family doctor, I recognize the challenges of caring for young patients living with mental health challenges and it is great news that this program will help provide additional tools to support our youngest patients in a safe and familiar environment,” said Health Minister Dr. Margaret MacDiarmid. “This training addresses an important need and is a great example of the work we are doing in partnership with the BCMA.”

The professional development program was developed by the Practice Support Program (PSP), a joint program of the Ministry of Health and the BCMA, and in partnership with Dr. Stan Kutcher, an internationally-renowned expert in adolescent mental health, and Dr. Jana Davidson, Psychiatrist, Chief of Children’s and Women’s Mental Health Programs.  Also involved were psychiatric specialists, pediatricians, school counselors, and staff of the provincial ministries of both education and children and family development.

The benefits of the new program include:

  • Increased patient access to mental health care.
  • Ability for young patients and their families to receive mental health care in their family physician’s office.
  • Collaboration with school counsellors for early identification of symptoms of mental health challenges – the earlier the detection, the better the treatment outcomes.
  • Skills, knowledge and easy-to-use tools to help physicians treat their younger patients.
  • Enhanced coordination and collaboration between family physicians, psychiatrists, pediatricians, school counsellors, and child and youth mental health clinicians.

“This program recognizes that early diagnosis and treatment of mental health disorders is essential to ensuring better long-term health for children,” said Children and Family Development Minister Stephanie Cadieux. “Receiving effective mental health care through family physicians, in collaboration with other community partners, can help improve outcomes for children, youth and families.”

The module was mirrored after PSP’s highly successful Adult Mental Health module, which was launched in 2009 and has over 1,400 family physician participants – more than 90% of whom feel their training on the program improved their patient care.

With its focus on community partnerships, this training program is supportive of existing BC government resources for vulnerable children and youth. In June 2012, the government launched the comprehensive 10-point ERASE (Expect Respect And a Safe Education) bullying program.  A key component of ERASE is a five-year, multi-level training program for 15,000 educators and community partners to help identify and prevent bullying.  The initial phase of training is underway in communities across B.C. and includes information on how to foster safe and caring school communities and empower children to report and stop bullying wherever it happens. By the end of the 2012-13 school year, all school districts will have started this first wave of training.

For more information on the Child and Youth Mental Health module please visit:

-- 30 –


Sharon Shore
Senior Manager, Communications and Media Relations
BC Medical Association
604 638-2832 or 604 306-1866 (pgr)   

Ryan Jabs
Media Relations Manager
Ministry of Health
250 952-1887 (media line)