Children’s Mental Health Week begins today, and with schools closed and the province still under a stay at home order, it has never been more important to talk about the mental health and wellbeing of children. Because things are not okay.
“We are very concerned for kids and teens in Muskoka and know that some families are really struggling,” says Jocelyn Wing, Manager of Services for Child &Youth Mental Health Programs at Simcoe Muskoka Family Connexions (SMFC). “Our child and youth mental health workers have continued to provide essential supports throughout the pandemic. But we have found that many people aren’t aware of the programs we offer, and we want families to know they can reach out to us.”
The ongoing pandemic means that children and youth have had reduced structure, have faced several school closures, virtual school challenges, and isolation from their peers – and it is hurting their mental health. For some children and youth, the stress and anxiety has progressed into more serious mental health challenges.
A recent SickKids survey found that approximately 70 per cent of children and youth in Ontario reported a worsening of their mental health since the start of the pandemic. Across the province, more children and youth are in need of mental health supports, and the severity of mental illness is worsening.
“This has been a very difficult year and when it comes to kids’ mental health, really, everything is not okay,” says Executive Director Geraldine Dooley-Phillips, “If you are a parent or caregiver in Muskoka and you’re concerned about changes in your child’s behaviour, please reach out. We are here to help.”
During COVID-19, children and youth may need to talk more about how they’re feeling and coping with the global pandemic. Families can access SMFC’s child and family counselling and therapy services for short-term or long-term therapy, intensive mental health treatment services – in home and community support, and telepsychiatry consultation through remote access to a child and youth psychiatrist.
For those experiencing more acute concerns, the agency provides crisis services through the 24-7 child and youth mental health crisis line where trained call-takers listen and connect people to the appropriate help. Local Crisis Clinicians are also available to provide support by phone or in-person, depending on the location and time of the call.
Family Connexions is proud of the work they are doing, but they are also dealing with the pressures of limited resources and waitlists like other providers in the province. In addition to delivering services, and trying to reach more families, SMFC is sounding the alarm to provincial officials. As a member of Children’s Mental Health Ontario, together they are calling for the Ontario government to urgently invest in child and youth mental health.
For children’s mental health week, CMHO and SMFC are urging everyone to share the message and sign the petition to let our provincial government know that everything is #NotOK. https://www.change.org/p/government-of-ontario-everything-is-not-ok
SMFC’s call-in counselling clinics are available on Tuesdays and Thursdays. To access services and speak with mental health professionals including booking the no-fee, confidential therapy services for children and youth 0-18 and their families, please call M-F 8:30-4:30 at 705-645-4426 ext. 6270. In a child and youth mental health crisis in Muskoka, you can call the child and youth mental health crisis line 24/7 at 1-844-287-9072. The organization’s website is www.familyconnexions.ca.