Statement to the Legislature from the Honourable Teresa Piruzza

World Suicide Prevention Day

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

As my colleagues in this House know, one in five young people in Ontario are dealing with mental health challenges.

We know that 70 per cent of mental health challenges begin in childhood or adolescence, and if left untreated, they become more serious and more difficult to treat.

We also know that too many young people attempt suicide.

It may be surprising to know that Canada has the third highest youth suicide rate in the industrialized world.

It is in this sober context that I am proud to highlight the steps our government is taking to help young people with mental health challenges, specifically those in crisis.

It is my hope that today - on World Suicide Prevention Day - we give the issue of youth suicide the attention it warrants.

Mr. Speaker, we want young people in crisis to know there is immediate help close by.

That premise – delivering the support kids need, when they need it, as close to home as possible – is also the central theme of our Comprehensive Mental Health and Addictions Strategy, announced in 2011, and which focuses on children and youth for the first three years.

Two years later, our efforts are making a real difference.

Approximately 35,000 more children and youth, and their families, are benefitting from the support and services provided by 770 new mental health workers.

Of these:

260 are helping kids in community agencies close to home;
175 are helping students in schools;
80 Aboriginal workers are providing services to children and youth in high-needs Aboriginal communities;
21 mental health court workers are helping to keep youth out of the justice system; and
144 nurses are working in schools and with school boards to support early identification and treatment of students with mental health challenges.

These workers are having a real impact in communities across the province.

An area I particularly want to bring attention to is suicide among Aboriginal youth. This is an area this government is very concerned about and we are determined to be a part of the solution.

The 80 new Aboriginal workers I mentioned will help high-needs communities provide additional, direct and culturally appropriate services to 4,000 more Aboriginal children and youth each year.

Our government will also develop and implement training supports for Aboriginal mental health and addictions workers to increase the supply of trained workers in Aboriginal communities.

Another important focus of our government's plan is to increase access to mental health services for the province's rural, remote and underserved communities.

I am also pleased that Ontario is enhancing its telepsychiatry model so an additional 800 children and youth in these areas can have access to mental health consultations and expertise through video conferencing.

We will accomplish this by allowing all professionals providing mental health services to children and youth to refer them to the new Tele-Mental Health Service, starting this fall.

Mr. Speaker, we need to continue to sustain the momentum we have built.

We are working in communities across the province, with our partners in schools, and the health and post-secondary sectors, so we can continue transforming - and improving - the child and youth mental health system.

While we are proud of all the achievements we have made in communities across Ontario, we know there is more to do.

We will continue working diligently with all our partners to help all young people in Ontario enjoy the bright futures they deserve.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.