Youth left out of mental health services

There is no legal framework for mental health services for children and youth in the territory. Child and Youth Advocate Andy Nieman says there should be. "Nothing is clear," added deputy advocate Jody Studney.

There is no legal framework for mental health services for children and youth in the territory.

Child and Youth Advocate Andy Nieman says there should be.

“Nothing is clear,” added deputy advocate Jody Studney.

There’s enough stress on these families and these children already without the lack of direction on what’s available and where, she said.

The territorial government doesn’t even have a recognized definition of what mental health is. Anything from addiction to schizophrenia is grouped under one umbrella, she said.

“It’s left up to the discretion of the individual worker,” said Nieman.

There is no policy manual for mental health services, said Studney.

Without proper legal policy, needs are ignored, services that do exist are used improperly and there is no accountability, said Nieman.

When the advocate’s office recognized their caseload was filled with people needing mental health services, they found they couldn’t find any answers for their questions, let alone for the families and children they work for.

When they asked mental health for the policy and procedure legislation for children and youth, they received a letter telling them there was none.

There is legislation for adults, but youth and children do not have the same rights as adults. They do not have the same relationship to government as adults do. They are not in the same circumstances. They attend school, not work, for example. And they are at different stages of life with very different planning and precautions necessary.

Now the advocate’s office is researching regions across Canada, with similar demographics to the Yukon, and is realizing it’s the same across the board.

Canadian policy only addresses adults, said Studney.

Meanwhile there is a “national epidemic” of mental health needs among youth and children across the country, said both Nieman and Studney.

The territorial government knows there is a gap in legislation.

“But you know, there are gaps on many issues in regards to health,” said Health and Social Services Minister Glenn Hart. “If you were to sit down beside me all day and find out what I have to deal with every day, it’d be interesting to see where you would put your balance and your weight. There are many, many issues that we have to look at every day with regards to health care.”

It would be similarly interesting if Hart sat with families who have youth with mental health needs, said Studney.

“What happens is mental health services does the diagnosis, but then there’s a requirement to the families, there’s a reliance on them to find support and services,” she said. “The expectation is that the family is going to be resourceful enough and have the capacity to find those services and supports, but often what we’re dealing with is disenfranchised families who don’t have that capacity and no one to support them through it.”

Even if they did have the capacity and support, the advocates claim that without the clarity and organization of policy and legislation, families would still be hard-pressed to find what they need.

The territory is spending millions on a sobering centre at the prison, but it will do nothing for children or youth except take money from their needs, said both advocates.

“These are the most vulnerable people we have in society, our children and youth affected by mental health illness,” said Studney.

They’d like a mental health and addictions facility built for children and youth. And better mental health support offered to families and communities.

“We’re working with our child services, developing what’s necessary,” said Hart. “Mental health is a big problem right across the territory.”

He noted Yukon’s Early Psychosis Intervention Program.

The program offers help in identifying psychosis and where to get help.

It is exactly the type of programming advocates are calling for, but they also want the legal backing to keep it around.

Until early this month, the Reality Rules! program was just a pilot project with funding set to end in March.

The territorial government recently announced another $700,000 for it and two other mental health services.

In a release announcing the continued funding, Hart noted how important these services are.

And the program is helping, said both advocates.

But it’s just not enough.

“The needs are complex and it takes agencies working together,” said Nieman. Surprisingly, they believe there are enough professionals up here to fill the gap, but it is this lack of framework and policy that stops them from collaborating, he said. “Because no one agency can address the needs, it seems people just back off.”

And the situation is only getting worse, Nieman said.

“It is a national epidemic. We have a small population, we don’t have all the resources,” he said. “However we seem to be getting more and more families and the children seem to be having more and more complex needs.”

Contact Roxanne Stasyszyn at

roxannes@yukon-news.com

Just Posted

Whether the dust jacket of this historical novel is the Canadian version (left) or the American (right), the readable content within is the same. (Michael Gates)
History Hunter: New novel a gripping account of the gold rush

Stampede: Gold Fever and Disaster in the Klondike is an ‘enjoyable and readable’ account of history

XX
WYATT’S WORLD

Wyatt’s World for May 14, 2021.… Continue reading

Copies of the revised 2021-22 budget documents tabled in the legislature on May 14. (Haley Ritchie/Yukon News)
Liberals introduce new budget with universal dental and safe supply funding

The new items were added to secure the support of the NDP.

Community Services Minister Richard Mostyn speaks to reporters on May 13. (Haley Ritchie/Yukon News)
Cap on rent increases will take effect May 15

The rollout of the policy is creating ‘chaos,’ says opposition

Yukon News file
A 21-year-old man is in custody after a stabbing in Porter Creek on May 14.
One man in hospital, another in custody, after alleged stabbing in Porter Creek

A police dog was used to track the suspect who was later arrested in a wooded area.

Safe at home office in Whitehorse on May 10, 2021. (John Tonin/Yukon News)
Federal government provides $1.6 million for Yukon anti-homelessness work

Projects including five mobile homes for small communities received funding.

Drilling at Northern Tiger’s 3Ace gold project in 2011. Randi Newton argues that mining in the territory can be reshaped. (Yukon government/file)
Editorial: There’s momentum for mining reform

CPAWS’ Randi Newton argues that the territory’s mining legislations need a substantial overhaul

At its May 10 meeting, Whitehorse city council approved the subdivision for the Kwanlin Dün First Nation’s business park planned in Marwell. (Submitted)
KDFN business park subdivision approved

Will mean more commercial industrial land available in Whitehorse

Main Street in Whitehorse on May 4. Whitehorse city council has passed the first two readings of a bylaw to allow pop-up patios in city parking spaces. Third reading will come forward later in May. (Stephanie Waddell/Yukon News)
Whitehorse council pursuing restaurant patio possibilities

Council passes first two readings for new patio bylaw

Neil Hartling, the Tourism Industry Association of the Yukon president, left, said the new self-isolation guidelines for the Yukon are a ‘ray of hope’ for tourism operators. (Ian Stewart/Yukon News file)
Yukon tourism operators prepared for ‘very poor summer’ even with relaxed border rules

Toursim industry responds to new guidelines allowing fully vaccinated individuals to skip mandatory self-isolation.

A lawsuit has been filed detailing the resignation of a former Yukon government mine engineer. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
A year after resigning, former chief mine engineer sues Yukon government

Paul Christman alleges a hostile work environment and circumvention of his authority led him to quit

Former Liberal MLA Pauline Frost speaks to reporters outside the courthouse on April 19. One of the voters accused of casting an invalid vote has been granted intervenor status in the lawsuit Frost filed last month. (Haley Ritchie/Yukon News)
Voters named in Pauline Frost election lawsuit ask to join court proceedings

The judge granted Christopher Schafer intervenor status

Most Read