Medical groups say Alberta is facing a crisis in child and adolescent mental health; call for action

Two medical groups in Alberta are sounding the alarm about what they call a crisis in children’s mental health.

Members of the Alberta Psychiatric Association (APA) and the Alberta Medical Association’s department of Psychiatry are asking for the government to do more to address the crisis.

“Although precautions taken throughout the pandemic, such as school closures, have been necessary and likely lifesaving, measures are also needed to address the corresponding cost to the emotional, mental, developmental and physical well-being of our youth. Although children and youth may not be the immediate face of this pandemic, they are undeniably the face of its future,” said APA President Dr. Kathryn Fitch in a news release.

The two groups do point out that the government has done work in this area already but say more planning and collaboration is needed to identify and treat students who need mental health supports.

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Moreover, they say that adequate funding is needed in order to support recovery and prevent relapses.

“We must not be under the illusion that the trauma and uncertainty wrought by this pandemic and the damage it has done to the mental health of children and youth will spontaneously resolve itself,” said Dr. Sterling Sparshu, President of the APA Section of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.

“Nor should we believe that the needs of impacted youth can be met within the existing health care system,” he added. He points out that Alberta has seen a steady rise in demand for mental health services over the last decade but says the demand has not been matched by healthcare investment.

Psychiatrists with the APA and AMA note that while the pandemic has taken a toll on everyone it is also shining a light on the importance of mental health.

They are calling for more funding and an interdisciplinary approach to create a spectrum of mental health services for youth that get them the help they need, when and where they need it.

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