Reducing the stigma around youth mental health makes the province’s ongoing financial commitment all the more important, according to Simcoe North MPP Jill Dunlop.
“Because the stigma is being reduced, people now feel safe coming forward and saying that ‘I need help,’” Dunlop said, adding that’s an important societal change that has occurred over the past decade or so.
“We want to make sure that when that time comes, supports and services are there in their communities when they need it.”
Earlier this week, Premier Doug Ford announced the Ontario government will spend $24.3 million on mental health for children and youth. He said the funding will be used to hire additional staff, increase access to counselling and therapy, create new programs to help manage stress, depression and anxiety, address eating disorders and other challenges faced by children and youth.
While Dunlop said details about which local organizations will share in the new funding will be released some time next week, she noted this latest investment comes from a larger pot of money that saw the province commit to spending $3.8 billion over 10 years on mental health initiatives.
“So the $24.3 million is in addition to an earlier investment of $60 million for children, youth mental health,” said Dunlop, who also serves as associate minister of children & women’s issues. “And there's more to come to this, you're going to continually see this rollout of funding.
“People know that mental health is a priority of this government and of the ministries and we’re looking at it across the lifespan. We know that when children and youth have access to these supports early on, it helps to build their resiliency and really gives them the coping skills as they move into adulthood.”
And Dunlop said that speaking as a mother of three girls, she understands its importance.
“During COVID, it’s a challenging time for kids and young people. That’s why this is a targeted investment to hire additional staff and increase access to counseling and therapy. We’re creating new programs to manage stress, depression, anxiety and also eating disorders.
“I can tell you as a mother of daughters, that's something that you fear at those ages and stages in life. Having access to the support that young people need is very important.”
The lion’s share of the latest funding, $5.8 million, will be split between 10 youth wellness hubs across the province that offer walk-in access to primary care and mental health and addictions services for people between the ages of 12 and 25. Waypoint operates one such hub out of the Chigamik Community Health Centre building in Midland.
As well, $3.7 million will go towards a new eating disorders program with another $2 million slated for the implementation of an Ontario structured psychotherapy program for families, children and youth. According to the province, this new program will provide evidence-based mental health supports for children, youth and their families that will help them develop skills to manage stress, depression and anxiety.
There’s also $800,000 for the creation and operation of Eating Disorders Ontario.
Dunlop said the new funding is also part of the government’s “comprehensive plan that intends to build a fully connected mental health and addiction system” across Ontario.
“We know that it's so important to make sure that no one is lost in those gaps,” she said, adding they’re committed to getting rid of any existing stigma surrounding mental health challenges one might face.
“Mental health is health. People need to be able to have access to the right supports, where they need it, when they need it.”