Taking action on mental health

Team approach: The Salmon Arm Child Youth Mental Health and Substance Use Collaborative Action Team members include Jenna Sheidegger, Monica Kriese, Jennifer Blenkarn and Patti Thurston. - James Murray/Observer
Team approach: The Salmon Arm Child Youth Mental Health and Substance Use Collaborative Action Team members include Jenna Sheidegger, Monica Kriese, Jennifer Blenkarn and Patti Thurston.
— image credit: James Murray/Observer

Mental health issues among children and youth are increasingly complex and demand for services is increasing.

But getting diagnosis and treatment is often difficult, something a Child and Youth Mental Health and Substance Use Collaborative is hoping to change.

B.C. doctors and the ministries of Health, Education and Child and Family Development are co-leading the collaborative, which is comprised of family doctors, psychiatrists, pediatricians, social workers, school and addiction counsellors, First Nations advocates, parents, youth, RCMP officers, health administrators and others.

A primary objective is to provide supports and tools to professionals to continue improvements for children, youth and families needing help with mental health and substance use issues.

The Salmon Arm team is putting together an inventory list for local doctors.

General practitioners are often the first to be approached when a mental health issue arises and have continuing relationships with families. This list will give them community resources at their fingertips that they can contact or share with the youth or family member.

This is good news to Adriaan Heunis, a Salmon Arm doctor and member of the local collaborative team.

“As a family physician I used to be frustrated with CYMH (Child and Youth Mental Health) serving only 10 per cent of the most serious children in need of mental health support. I felt doctors were left with the rest of the 90 per cent of children,” he says. “During our collaborative I learned about many other support groups and resources active in Salmon Arm.”

Family Resource Centre executive director Patti Thurston says the directory of resources should reduce stress for both doctors and their patients.

“It connects them to the community in a much gentler way,” Thurston says. “They may need intense service or they may just need to be connected to the community.”

Once the directory is completed, Thurston says the action team would like to develop a comprehensive website.

Another avid supporter of the collaborative and member of the local action team is Monica Kriese, whose son Kameron lives with bi-polar disorder.

“I think it’s time that families are brought to the table and we are considered equal when discussing our kids’ needs,” she says.

May 7 is National Child & Youth Mental Health Day and Salmon Arm will have events at various schools, as well as displays from May 5 to 9 at the Mall at Piccadilly, the Shuswap Family Resource Centre and Downtown Activity Centre.

For more information, contact Kriese at 250-833-6100.


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