Established in 2012 thanks to a $10-million investment by the Hon. Margaret McCain, the Margaret and Wallace McCain Centre for Child, Youth & Family Mental Health improves the lives of young people and their families affected by mental health and substance use challenges through clinical research, community partnerships and youth engagement initiatives designed to influence mental health policy and practice.
Upwards of 15 per cent of children and youth have a serious mental illness and more than 75 per cent of mental illnesses begin before the age of 25. Yet, only 16 per cent of young people with a mental illness get the care they need. Barriers included stigma, lack of mental health literacy, long wait lists, strict exclusion criteria based on comorbidities or age, and a general reluctance to access mental health services, especially those designed for adults.
Delivering care presents a challenge, too. Young people and their families need developmentally sensitive, evidence-based services in the right environment. Furthermore, despite a growing body of new studies on effective mental health interventions and clinical practice guidelines, implementation across appropriate settings is highly variable and the benefits of interventions are often partial and short-lived.
The needs of children and youth are not served by the current mental health system. More knowledge, improved access and better quality of services are key issues facing service providers and mental health policy makers in Canada.