First report of its kind examines the burden of mental illness and addictions on Ontario children and youth

TORONTO, March 2, 2015 – A ground-breaking report from the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences (ICES) in consultation with the Ministry of Health and Long Term Care, the Ministry of Education, the Ministry of Children and Youth Services and the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities, examines the gap that exists in population-based mental health research for children and youth in Ontario.

“We need better information to guide policies around the mental health care and treatment of children and youth in this province. This report is the first step in providing the evidence we require to do just that,” said Dr. Paul Kurdyak, co-author, CAMH Scientist and Lead of the Mental Health and Addictions Research Program at ICES.

The Mental Health of Children and Youth in Ontario: A Baseline Scorecard uses diverse sources of data up to 2013/2014 and focuses on children, youth and young adults aged 0 to 24-years-old. The report is part of the first phase of The Government of Ontario’s Comprehensive Mental Health and Addictions Strategy, Open Minds, Healthy Minds, which was launched in June 2011.

“This is the first report in Canada that comprehensively describes the current state of mental health and addictions system performance for children and youth – an important age group because this is when many mental health problems begin. We described population-based outcomes and service use in the context of social disparities and healthcare regions. Some of our indicators point to important areas of inequity to be addressed by the evolving mental health system for children and youth,” said Dr. Astrid Guttmann, co-author and Chief Science Officer at ICES.

Notable findings from the reportinclude:

  • Burden of mental health problems (e.g., suicide, self-harm, schizophrenia) and admissions to hospital for a variety of mental health problems are  higher in lowest income neighbourhoods.
  • Worse mental health outcomes in  Northern Ontario including rates of suicide six times higher in the North West Local Health Integration Network (LHIN) than in the other 13 LHINs.
  • Increasing burden of disease for some problems, such as a four-fold increase in the prevalence of neonatal abstinence syndrome— a withdrawal syndrome observed in the babies of mothers who are either using opioids or being treated for opioid dependence with methadone — over 10 years.
  • Increasing  emergency department visits and hospitalizations for anxiety disorders from 2006/7 to 2011/12.
  • Inequities in use of care by psychiatrists with children and youth from high income neighbourhoodsusing these services most often.

However, targeted investments in services were associated with improved access to mental health and addictions care, including:

  • Out-of-country treatment for eating disorders decreased significantly after implementation of a systematic referral screening process in Ontario in 2008.
  • Rates of telepsychiatry increased dramatically after 2009/10, particularly in remote regions with a low per capita supply of psychiatrists.

“This report tells us that mental health and public health practitioners, policy-makers and researchers need to work together to identify and enhance health promotion and intervention strategies for Ontario’schildren and youth, while improving timelyaccess to treatment for those suffering from mental illness and addictions,” said Kurdyak.

The report is a snapshot of the state of various context and system performance indicators from available data and will be updated every two years to provide ongoing monitoring of the performance of the mental health care system and strategy.

The Mental Health of Children and Youth in Ontario: A Baseline Scorecard can be downloaded here.

About ICES
ICES is an independent, non-profit organization that uses population-based health information to produce knowledge on a broad range of health care issues. Our unbiased evidence provides measures of health system performance, a clearer understanding of the shifting health care needs of Ontarians, and a stimulus for discussion of practical solutions to optimize scarce resources. ICES knowledge is highly regarded in Canada and abroad, and is widely used by government, hospitals, planners, and practitioners to make decisions about care delivery and to develop policy.

For Further Information Please Contact:
Deborah Creatura
Media Advisor, ICES

(o) 416-480-4780 or (c) 647-406-5996


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