PEI·Peace of Mind

How many kids are struggling? A look at child mental health in P.E.I.

Just under five per cent of P.E.I. youth were referred to community mental health services for assessment in the last fiscal year, according to Health PEI.

Almost 1,300 children under 17 were referred to community mental health in 2016-17

If you're worried about your child, you can consult their primary care provider, go to a mental health walk-in clinic, or if the situation is urgent — go to the emergency department. (Rawpixel.com/Shutterstock)

Just under five per cent of P.E.I. youth were referred to community mental health services for assessment in the last fiscal year, according to Health PEI.

In the 2016-17 fiscal year, the agency said 1,274 children under the age of 17 were referred to community mental health.

All were referred onward, with 1,102 directly referred to clinical therapy and 172 directly referred to psychiatry.

For reference, Statistics Canada estimates there were 27,523 people under 17 in P.E.I. in 2017, making the number of youth referred to community mental health just under five per cent.

Health PEI didn't provide numbers for past years, so it's not clear if the number of children seeking mental health support is changing.

Most common reasons for hospitalization

Health PEI also didn't provide numbers on how many children were admitted to hospital for mental health reasons, but it did say that the most common reasons for admission for children under 17 were depressive episodes, stress reaction/adjustment disorder and childhood/adolescent disorder.

The longest lengths of stays in hospital were for obsessive compulsive disorder, poisoning/toxic effect of drug use and childhood/adolescent disorder.

100s of kids accessing support programs

The Insight youth mental health day treatment program, for teens with severe and complex needs, has admitted 29 clients since it started last year.

The Strength residential mental health and addictions program admits 75 clients per year. Health PEI added that 177 youth have gone through the program since its services were expanded in April 2015.

The Strongest Families program, which deals with issues related to behaviour, anxiety and bed wetting has served 369 families since the fall of 2015, with 40 new referrals per month.

The Behavioural Support Team, which helps children with disruptive behavioural disorders, has served 51 children since fall 2016.

The Student Well-Being Teams, which are currently in the Montague and Westisle families of schools have seen 130 children since the beginning of the school year.

Mental health walk-in clinics

Health PEI didn't provide numbers for how many children and teens have visited a mental health walk-in clinic since the service first started, but said the clinics have seen more than 600 Islanders of all ages across the province.

Where to go if you need help

If you or your child needs help for mental health issues, you can start the conversation with your primary care provider — a family doctor, nurse practitioner or pediatrician.

You can also contact Community Mental Health, go to a mental health walk-in clinic or, if the situation is urgent, can go to the hospital emergency department.

The Island Helpline can be reached at 1-800-218-2885 and the Kids Help Phone is 1-800-668-6868.

This story is part of an ongoing project CBC P.E.I. is doing on mental health services in the province. You can share your experiences with us here.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Jesara Sinclair

Journalist

Jesara Sinclair is a journalist with CBC P.E.I. Prior to Charlottetown, she worked with CBC in Montreal, Vancouver and Toronto. E-mail: jesara.sinclair@cbc.ca.

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