A new report called Mental Health of Children and Youth in Ontario: A Baseline Scorecard suggests that children and youth in northern Ontario have worse mental health outcomes than in the rest of the province.
For example, the report found a four-fold increase in the prevalence of neonatal abstinence syndrome – a withdrawal syndrome observed in the babies of mothers who use opioids – over a 10-year period.
The report also found rates of suicide to be six times higher in Ontario’s north and that most suicides by young people happen between the ages of 20 and 24.
“Young people have less access to mental health and addiction services in northern Ontario, partly because the system is difficult to understand and access,” said Dr. Paul Kurdyak, co-author of the report, in an interview with CBC.
CMHA Ontario is concerned about this disparity and remains committed to working with our local branches to address the systemic barriers contributing to this inequity. In the past, CMHA Ontario has highlighted key challenges facing rural and northern communities and will continue to monitor any developments that focus on addressing their mental health issues.
The report’s findings will be used to enhance the province’s mental health and addictions strategy. It is the first report in Ontario to comprehensively describe the current state of mental health and addictions system performance for children and youth, an important age group because this is when many mental health problems begin and early intervention leads to better outcomes.
The report was put together by the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences (ICES) in consultation with four provincial ministries: Health and Long-Term Care, Education, Children and Youth Services and Training, Colleges and Universities.
Other notable findings from the report include:
- Burden of mental health problems (e.g., suicide, self-harm, schizophrenia) and admissions to hospital for a variety of mental health problems are higher in lowest income neighbourhoods.
- Worse mental health outcomes in Northern Ontario including rates of suicide six times higher in the North West Local Health Integration Network (LHIN) than in the other 13 LHINs.
- Increasing emergency department visits and hospitalizations for anxiety disorders from 2006/7 to 2011/12.
- Inequities in use of care by psychiatrists with children and youth from high income neighbourhoods using these services most often.
The full report can be accessed on the ICES website.