Only 4 of 10 provinces in Canada have a mental health policy addressing children and adolescents, according to a recent review paper published in the Canadian Journal of Psychiatry. Ontario, Saskatchewan, Alberta and British Columbia have a distinct child and adolescent mental health policy or plan; these plans were evaluated according to the World Health Organization (WHO) framework. The process steps recommended by WHO for development of such policies is the only internationally recognized framework for mental health policies. Although the four provinces followed the WHO template, their menus of policy or plan actions for child and adolescent mental health received mixed reviews. Some provinces have policies and programs that address youth, but lack an overarching framework.
The authors of the review indicate that a common motivator for the development of provincial strategies focused on mental health policy for children and youth has been stakeholder pressure resulting from public inquiries or external reports. For example, the Ontario government was pushed by public reactions to media reports on long wait times to access mental health care for the children of soldiers posted in Afghanistan.
Canada currently lacks a cohesive vision of and evidence-based approach to this issue. However, the Mental Health Commission of Canada has initiated the Child and Youth Advisory Committee to undertake the development of a national mental health framework for children and youth, called Evergreen.
See “Child and Adolescent Mental Health Policy and Plans in Canada: An Analytical Review,” Canadian Journal of Psychiatry (February 2010; 55 : 100-107), at publications.cpa-apc.org. To learn more about Evergreen, go to www.mentalhealthcommission.ca.