Janice reiterated this: “Mental health needs to be discussed openly. People with depression don’t want to die; what they want is another way to live.”
The Bowie’s five year experience made them want to change things for other families in the future. But they know that the current mental health system in Alberta isn’t set up to provide what is needed. Keynote speaker Dr. Ian Manion followed the family to paint a picture of a model for care that answers the needs of families like the Bowie’s.
Dr. Manion has worked with youth and families for over 35 years in the mental health field. But more personally, he has struggled with depression since he was young, and now supports one of his own children in their experience with mental illness. The Bowie family’s experience is not unusual, he confirmed, and there are many reasons why young people and families continue to struggle. These include stigma, a lack of understanding around what is normal and what is mental illness, a system not tailored for its patients, poor transitions when a youth becomes an adult at age 18, and failure to meaningfully engage with youth.
So what can we do?
Say Ian, there is a wave of service providers internationally responding with a model called Integrated Youth Services. Approximately 338 sites have been identified worldwide that bring primary care, mental health care, substance use support, social services, and housing together under one roof.
Instead of hospitals, centres are located accessibly in the community and resemble youth centres. They meaningfully engage both youth and families, and they provide the right care, at the right time, in the right place. Early evaluation of these programs are showing remarkable results for youth.
And now is the time to bring this model to Alberta.
Never before has there been a greater moment of readiness for change. Everyone’s talking about youth mental health. We have a moment in time where we can make change happen. But it’s not going to take one person. It’s going to take everyone.
This message was echoed by Mike Saunders as he concluded the program.
“We the community are the consumers of health care services, and we are the ones who can demand higher priority for mental health. We invite you to be a partner with us in a movement to raise mental health care to a higher standard, one urgently needed.”
The funds raised from the breakfast will help us move the model of Integrated Youth Services forward in Alberta. Already, the Foundation is working with community partners to coordinate the Alberta Integrated Youth Services Initiative, mobilizing funds and advocating action from government.
In the coming weeks, we will be posting more information about Integrated Youth Services on the website. Please check back or sign up for our newsletter to ensure you receive updates.
Thank you, from all of us at the Foundation.