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Only one in five children who need help for mental health get it, according to CMHO

Last Updated Feb 25, 2016 at 7:34 pm EDT

The news that a teenage girl charged with stabbing seven people at a Pickering high school this week also suffered from a history of mental health problems is not surprising, according to mental health care professionals.

Children today face more complicated problems at increasingly younger ages, many of which were unheard of 20 years ago. But only one out of five children who need help receive it, according to the Hincks-Dellcrest Centre.

According to Dr. Marshall Korenblum, Psychiatrist-in-Chief at the Hincks-Dellcrest Centre, there are only 500 child psychiatrists in Canada, 175 in Ontario. The University of Toronto is the largest training centre for child psychiatrists in all of Canada but it only turns out four new ones a year.

The Department of Psychiatry at The Hospital for Sick Children’s outpatient, day hospital and inpatient programs says it sees more than 10,000 patients each year.

Children’s Mental Health Ontario says while some 6,000 children and youth are in need of immediate help, some families must wait as long as a year for treatment to begin. They cite a shortage of child psychiatrists, psychologists, and social workers, the stigma and misunderstanding surrounding mental health, and a lack of knowledge about what options are available.

With treatment costing upwards of $100,000 per child annually, some families are forced to seek care in specialized U.S. treatment centres, at great cost to the province.

In its pre-budget submission, CMHO says the province must allocate more resources to meet the needs of all children and youth seeking treatment for mental illness in the community-based sector. An investment of $65-million a year is needed to help reduce wait times for services, decrease hospital admissions, improve access to care, increase service quality, and enhance care pathways and coordination.

And if action is not taken immediately, an additional $345-million will be needed in in-patient and emergency department costs alone over the next five years.