One in five children and youth have a mental-health problem that warrants intervention from mental-health clinicians and addiction services.
Fewer than one in three get help, according to the IWK Health Centre in Halifax, and that was before directives to combat COVID-19 in the province came into force.
The IWK mental health and addictions program anticipates an unprecedented increase in the need for services during the pandemic and when the health crisis passes.
In response, the IWK has initiated virtual mental health care to help ensure that Nova Scotian children, youth and families have increased access to quality mental health and addictions care during COVID-19 and beyond.
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“The sudden transition to social distancing that has moved children and youth away from normal routines and structured environments, such as school and community groups, can be devastating for many vulnerable populations,” Maureen Brennan, director of the IWK mental health and addictions program, said in a release.
Lead donor Eleanor McCain, along with the RBC Foundation and CIBC, have collectively invested $300,000 into the virtual mental health-care program of children and youth at the IWK. Those donations will provide the equipment and technology required to virtually connect clinicians and patients during this unprecedented time.
“We recognize that children, youth and families are experiencing a lot of changes and uncertainty in their lives leading to stress and worry,” Brennan said. “Thanks to these generous donations, the mental health and addictions program will now be in a position to help minimize the impact this will have, ensuring vulnerable patients receive the mental health care when they need it most.”
The IWK mental health and addictions program has transformed many of its services to a virtual platform and continue to offer services to patients and families throughout this pandemic.
Virtual care is offered by phone or videoconference and allows clinicians new innovative ways to engage patients and families in a safe, secure and private manner while adhering to physical distancing requirements.
Providing access to technology addresses the gaps and barriers related to economic and geographic inequities many families face.
Through a newly created loan program, equipment and technology will be provided to staff and families who want to engage virtually with IWK mental health and addictions but don’t have access to the resources required, such as computers, phones or laptops.
This means the IWK is able to offer care where it otherwise would have been out of reach. This technology is essential in minimizing disruption in care and treatment to prevent long-term repercussions for this population’s health and well-being.
“We are so grateful for the tremendous generosity and commitment of our donors during this unprecedented time, Jennifer Gallivan, president and chief executive of the IWK Foundation, said. “The need for accessible and timely mental health services for our children and youth is critical.”
This announcement comes during the May 4-10 mental health week in Canada, and adheres to its theme of social connection.
“While the IWK is providing mental health and addictions care differently, it is important to reinforce that we are not providing different care,” Brennan said. “We have not stopped providing quality evidenced-based services since the start of the pandemic and these services will continue to be available throughout the province. This includes urgent, emergent and regular clinical operations as well as face-to-face appointments and inpatient admissions when required.”
Source: The Chronicle Herald