National Child and Youth Mental Health Day


May 8th, 2012

Hon. Jane Cordy: Honourable senators, I am also pleased to recognize that this week is National Mental Health Awareness Week. Yesterday, May 7, was the sixth annual National Child and Youth Mental Health Day. One in five of all Canadians will experience poor mental health at some point in their lives, and 70 per cent of those mental health issues will initially appear before the age of 25.

Honourable senators, one in six children will experience a mental health problem that impacts their ability to function in school, at home and in their community. Mental disorders are the most common medical illness among teenagers and, sadly, as a result, suicide is the second leading cause of death among 10-year-olds to 19-year-olds. Prevention and early intervention efforts targeted to children, youth and their families are vital to reversing these numbers and for creating healthy Canadian communities. Early intervention can improve school readiness, health status and academic achievement.

Unfortunately, three out of every five children in Canada with poor mental health are not receiving any form of mental health service. This accounts for nearly 1.6 million children and youth who are not being treated.

Dr. Stan Kutcher, a professor at Dalhousie University, is the Sun Life Financial Chair in Adolescent Mental Health and he is the director of the World Health Organization Collaborating Centre in Mental Health. He is working hard to transform how we provide mental health care for children and youth in Canada. Through the Mental Health Commission of Canada, Dr. Kutcher is helping develop a national child and youth mental health framework to help provide guidance and a resource for provinces to share best practices when addressing mental health.

Dr. Kutcher has shown great leadership in school mental health policies through school curriculum and teacher training.

Nova Scotian schools are implementing a number of Dr. Kutcher's groundbreaking initiatives. Promoting student health and well-being has long been a goal of education policies in schools, with the focus on physical health, healthy eating habits, encouraging physical activity and the prevention of tobacco and substance use. However, in the past, mental health issues have sometimes been ignored. With the help of Dr. Kutcher's initiative, schools now provide an important vehicle through which mental health promotion, disorder prevention, case identification, triage and intervention can be realized. These initiatives will help to remove the stigma that has traditionally been associated with mental health issues. As honourable senators know, the stigma attached to mental illness often means that Canadians are reluctant to seek help to improve their well-being.

Honourable senators, National Child and Youth Mental Health Day coincides with the Canadian Mental Association's Mental Health Week, which takes place this week. It is a time to encourage people from all walks of life to learn, talk, reflect and engage with others on all issues relating to mental health.

I would like to thank Dr. Kutcher for the work that he is doing in the field of child and youth mental health. I would also like to thank the champions of mental health who have told their personal stories, which will help eliminate the stigma attached to mental illness.

Senator Roméo Dallaire was a Champion of Mental Health Award winner in 2005. I would also like to congratulate Senator David Angus, who was presented a Champion of Mental Health Award at the award's dinner last evening. Hon. Senators: Hear, hear!

Senator Cordy: David, you have done so much to help those with mental illness and your speech last night was very moving. Thank you for all that you are doing.

Honourable senators, let us work together to make things better for those Canadians who have poor mental health.