Doctors of BC

Doctors of BC

September 15, 2014 13:29 ET

Doctors of BC: Reaching Out to Youth in Transition to Improve Their Mental Health

VANCOUVER, BRITISH COLUMBIA--(Marketwired - Sept. 15, 2014) - Many youth transitioning from adolescence to adulthood experience challenges, but this path can be particularly difficult for the estimated 12 to 20% of young British Columbians who suffer from mental illness. It is during this time that many mental health conditions first appear, but sadly many of these youth do not seek help which can lead to a lifetime of unnecessary anguish.

Doctors of BC has made a number of commitments and recommendations in its new policy paper, Reaching Out: Supporting Youth Mental Health in British Columbia, that aims to raise awareness about mental health among transition age youth (15 - 24 years), their families, and doctors with a particular focus on those youth not already being treated within the mental health system.

"Barriers to youth seeking assistance for mental health issues include not knowing where to find help, a lack of understanding of mental health and how to recognize mental illness, and the stigma that can be attached," said Dr. Lloyd Oppel, chair of the Council on Health Promotion, the committee that developed the paper. "Many youth also do not realize that their doctor is a great resource for not only their physical ailments, but also their mental health concerns."

Approximately 80% of mental illnesses in younger people can be diagnosed and effectively treated by their family doctor, but not all youth will feel comfortable speaking to their doctor. Many youth are more at ease accessing information online. With this in mind, Doctors of BC developed a youth mental health microsite at OpenMindBC.ca that provides coordinated and streamlined access to already existing resources specifically for youth and their friends and families, doctors, teachers, and other stakeholders.

"We hope to break down the barriers and make it easier for youth and their families to seek assistance," said Dr. Oppel. "Many youth must be equipped with knowledge about mental health and have skills and coping strategies to deal with the transition to independence."

In its policy paper Doctors of BC commits to encouraging doctors to initiate conversations about mental health with their transition aged patients, as well as undertaking their own continuing medical education where relevant. Doctors of BC also recommends that:

  • Doctors, families, and schools encourage transition age youth to take stock of their mental health and use available tools and resources.
  • When transition age youth are concerned about their mental health, they visit their doctor or other appropriate mental health care provider.
  • Health Authorities regularly inform primary care doctors in their region about available mental health programs.
  • Government continues addressing capacity issues within the mental health system to ensure that youth receive access to the right service at the right time.

In a separate initiative, the 'Spread and Sustainability Congress' will be taking place at the end of this month in Kelowna. It is part of a mental health and substance use collaborative specifically for children, youth and their families.

Contact Information

  • Sharon Shore
    Senior Manager of Communications and Media Relations
    604-638-2832
    604-306-1866 (pager)