Transforming mental health services to empower youth and inspire hope

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By Jinny Sims,

MLA for Surrey-Panorama

Watching someone you love struggle with mental health or addictions issues is anyone’s worst nightmare. This especially true for parents and caretakers watching their own kids suffer – not knowing how to help.

On more than one occasion, parents have come to my office, frustrated and feeling helpless. I’m reminded of one family who told me their daughter had started having anxiety attacks. She was unable to sleep, she stopped going out with her friends and it was a struggle to get her to school. She needed counselling, and techniques for coping with her anxiety. Unfortunately, the waiting lists in Surrey were months long. But thanks to the advocacy of her family, she was able to get help.

For far too long in B.C. there wasn’t enough mental health supports for youth. To be frank, the old government left behind a fragmented, under-funded system that left children and youth behind and didn’t get them the care they need

But we are doing things differently. When our New Democrat government introduced A Pathway to Hope this summer I was both relieved, and grateful. Relieved that children across the province will start to get the help they need where and when they need it, and grateful that our government made youth mental health a priority, and was quick to add supports in our schools and communities across the province.

Right here in Surrey we are seeing a step forward through the South Asian Mental Health Alliance. This summer they received over $112,000 from the Province to train 100 youth ambassadors. Training and mentoring in cultural safety, overdose crisis education, health-care system navigation skills and learning how to use the arts to promote dialogue about mental health will be provided to those participating as youth ambassadors. Once the youth ambassadors have completed their training, they will lead projects to spark discussions on mental health and raise awareness of supports and services available in their communities.

Surrey is also home to B.C. first ever mental health, substance use urgent care response centre that opened in July. Instead of forcing people to go to emergency rooms that aren’t built to serve the needs of people with mental health and substance use challenges, people now have a place to go where they will receive specialty care in a more therapeutic environment.

We are also building Foundry youth centres, which are one-stop-shops for health and wellness resources, services, and supports for youth ages 12-24. I’m proud to say we are increasing the number of these centres from 8 to 19, so that more young people in more communities can access help.

I’m proud of what we have delivered so far, but make no mistake, we are just getting started. We know there is more to do in every corner of the province to ensure that everyone received the help they need, and that no child is left behind.