Hospitalization for youth with mental health disorders up 58% in N.W.T. over past decade
People can end up in the hospital when mental health services aren't available, says expert
The number of children and young people who were hospitalised for mental health disorders in the Northwest Territories has risen close to 58 per cent over the past decade — and grown 64 per cent across the country.
The data comes from the Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI). It looked at how many young people, between the ages of five and 24, were hospitalised for mental health disorders from 2006-2007 to 2017-2018 in Canada.
That includes anxiety disorders, bipolar disorder, anger management, eating disorders and schizophrenia.
Between 2007-2008 and 2017-2018, the number of young people hospitalised for mental health disorders rose 52 per cent in Yukon and 81 per cent in Nunavut — though there was an anomaly in Nunavut's data from 2007-2008 that contributed to the high rise.
In the Northwest Territories, the number of youth hospitalized rose from 99 in 2007-08 to 157 in 2017-18; in Yukon during that time period, that number rose from 34 hospitalizations to 52, while Nunavut's rose from 66 to 120.
Lack of services, long-term struggles, less stigma
"This can flag when there are not services available, or enough available, during the hours that people need them," explained Tracy Johnson, director of Health System Analysis and Emerging Issues for CIHI, speaking about the country as a whole.
If services aren't available, or if people don't know where else to go for help, Johnson said people often end up going to the emergency room.
"Hospitalizations can be an indication that people have been struggling for a long time and maybe not getting the care that they need in the community, and it's exacerbated to the point where they need to be hospitalised for it."
She said another reason for the increase in hospitalizations could have to do with efforts in recent years to get rid of the stigma around mental health issues.
While it doesn't look like children are developing mental health disorders more often than in previous years, Johnson said it may be easier to identify when youth are having problems.
Johnson said it's important to catch mental health conditions early to help youth recover, so it's important for provinces and territories to understand this data and what is happening with their populations.
CBC News reached out to the Northwest Territories' Department of Health for comment on these numbers. No one was made available by the time of publication.