Sask. child and youth advocate releases new report focusing on mental health and addictions

The Saskatchewan Advocate for Children and Youth has released a report that looks into research on child-serving systems to address decades-old issues in the provision of mental health and addictions services for children.

Advocate Lisa Broda stated in a release that the goal of this research is to elevate the rights, interests and well-being of young people in Saskatchewan by gathering and analyzing the direct experiences and perspectives of stakeholders in relation to youth mental health and addictions services.

Read more: Report calls for better oversight at youth group homes in Saskatchewan

“This work aligns with the issues we have heard about for years through our advocacy and investigative work – concerns regarding self-harm, suicidal ideation, suicide attempts, completed suicides and increasing problematic substance use among young people,” stated Broda. “We called this report, Desperately Waiting, because children and youth are at a crisis point in trying to access and receive mental health and addictions services.”

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According to the Desperately Waiting report, gaps and deficiencies in mental health and addiction services have been known for a long time, with past recommendations from the Saskatchewan Advocate. These issues persist despite promises to address them.

“This has created a landscape in which available services are focused on reacting to crisis, leaving a significant number of young people in Saskatchewan – who desperately need support – waiting for services until they, too, reach a crisis point,” said Broda.

Read more: Spike in deaths, majority Indigenous children, reported to Saskatchewan child advocate

There were nearly 500 participants involved in the research for the report, where social determinants of health were identified by young people and adults across all sectors and stakeholder groups as being the social drivers undermining the mental health of children and youth.

“The participants stated that, when children and youth struggle or find themselves in a mental health
or addictions-related crisis, the system is plagued with challenges such as availability of service
providers and difficulty accessing services,” said Broda.

The Saskatchewan Mental health and addictions critic Doyle Vermette addressed reporters on March 29, 2022 following Question Period saying “it’s time for serious action” from the government.

“We’ve known this for years. This just validates what’s going on,” said Vermette. “I want to see who (the provincial government) consulted with and have they consulted with families … if they haven’t, why not?”

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In response, the province’s minister for mental health and addictions said they are taking a close look at the recommendations listed in the Desperately Waiting report.

“A number of the recommendations are actually addressed by some of the investments in this year’s budget,” said Everett Hindley, Saskatchewan’s minister of mental health and addictions. “We’re working hand and hand looking at all the recommendations in the report (and) how we can implement those as quickly as possible.”

The report concludes with 14 cross-government recommendations related to mental health and addictions inpatient and community-based services. The Desperately Waiting report can be found at saskadvocate.ca.

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Report calls for better oversight at youth group homes in Saskatchewan – Mar 3, 2021

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