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RVH officials hope new day program is missing link in youth mental-health cycle

'Kids are so obsessive with their phones and social media that they are avoiding in-person contact and that increases depression'

Royal Victoria Regional Health Centre’s much-talked-about youth mental-health wing has stepped up its ability to help teens with a new program this week.

The day program will see four of its first wave of students hit the classroom on Friday, Sept. 7 and by the end of the month another six will join.

The program is designed to assist kids from grades 9 to 12 who are having difficulty in regular classes due to a diagnosis of anxiety and depression.

Hospital president and CEO Janice Skot said this is yet another step in showing how dedicated the RVH and Simcoe-Muskoka Regional Child Care and Youth Mental Health Program is to improving the lives of the region’s youth.

“Before last December, hospital-based mental-health services for troubled youth weren’t available anywhere in this region,” said Skot. “Clearly, the need was great, since opening the program last year almost 300 young people have been cared for in the eight-bed inpatient unit.

"We always knew the job wasn’t finished and that we needed a service for students who were struggling academically because of their illness," she added. "For those students, high school and all it’s complicated dynamics, can be extremely difficult to manage.”

The huge undertaking was made possible by a combined effort from the Simcoe County District School Board, Simcoe-Muskoka Catholic District School Board, Kinark Child and Family Services and New Path Youth and Family Services.

Students in the program will be able to keep up to date with their reading, writing and arithmetic while getting the one on one and group therapy they need to improve their mental well-being.

RVH chief of psychiatry Eric Mulder explained just how the program will work for the students enrolled and will be an individualized and flexible program with respect to academics and length of stay.

“The enrolled students will become temporary students of Eastview Secondary School while attending the program,” said Mulder. “We’ll work in collaboration also with student’s home school to develop a transition program to get them back into that school typically within eight to 10 weeks. This will serve as a safe environment for the students to obtain both the educational support and treatment of their mental health needs.

"I know that our team is very excited for our school bell to ring on Friday.”

Brian Irving is the child and youth worker for the day program and will be having daily one to one counselling sessions and facilitating groups dedicated to specifically the mental-health aspect of the teens.

“I’ll be working with groups dealing with and including social anxiety, depression, coping skills and other things to help the kids readjust to school,” said Irving. “This is a very needed program for the large number of youths that are being served in the in-patient program since it opened in January, so this is going to help immensely.

"This is going to help transition the kids from that aspect and back into school which seemed to long be the missing piece in getting the kids healthy and keeping them that way," Irving added. "Far too often the kids are getting great help and feeling better mentally until they have to step into the hallways, classrooms and societal issues they faced previous. Now we can make that go smoothly.”

The program works predominantly with today’s high-school students who are quite possibly facing more mental-health hurdles than any generation before them.

Irving says that while services are better than years gone by, it’s the fact that people are now more able to openly talk about the issues that is really helping.

“Things are getting better certainly, but I think our awareness is increasingly better nowadays as opposed to when most of us were younger,” said Irving. “Being able to talk about depression and anxiety is a good thing and some of the major things we’re seeing is increased anxiety and depression, increased access to substances and the dependency on technology as well.

"Kids are so obsessive with their phones and social media that they are avoiding in-person contact and that increases depression," Irving added. "We can help the kids we work with to curb those dependencies and get back to being happy in society.”


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Shawn Gibson

About the Author: Shawn Gibson

Shawn Gibson is a staff writer based in Barrie
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