Wednesday, May 7, 2014

MLA Rice speaks to mental health issues for rural and coastal communities

On Tuesday, North Coast MLA Jennifer Rice introduced the need for better mental health resources for rural and coastal residents, with a particular focus on youth and family requirements.

Marking the arrival of National Child and Youth Mental Health Week, the North Coast MLA provided some examples for the Legislature to consider on the theme of lack of services for rural and coastal communities.

It is national Child and Youth Mental Health Week, and tomorrow is Child and Youth Mental Health Day. This year the theme — the "I care about you" campaign — aims to connect kids to parents and caring adults to let them know that their mental health is important to us and that we are there for them as adults.

Talking to health professionals in my community and surveying their opinions, mental health issues are brought up time and time again as a major concern. There is a greater need for services that are either not offered or they are offered but not staffed. In fact, perusing the human resources section of my health authority's website, the mental health and addictions worker positions are one of the most common job vacancies across northern B.C. The youth clinician position has been vacant for over a year in Prince Rupert.

Ms Rice recounted the recent tragedy faced by the Robinson family in Prince Rupert as part of her review of the need for improved access to assistance. The murder-suicide in April still resonates in the community, with calls for improved services and compassion for those that can feel overwhelmed by events without a proper support system.

Just recently a murder-suicide has rattled my community — a desperate parent at the end of her rope because she felt alone in her struggle and our community lacked the kind of support she needed to support her teen.

As part of her message to the Legislature, the MLA also outlined the concerns in many rural and coastal communities when it comes to their young people and the struggles that parents and leaders have in meeting the needs of those in their communities.

A teen suicide has spurred a chain reaction of multiple suicide attempts by other teens. A local Coast Guard officer tells me that many of their call-outs are to the various First Nations communities that are only accessible by boat or seaplane to medevac someone who has attempted suicide.

These communities are extremely isolated and remote and may lack the necessities many of us take for granted.

Wrapping up her review for the Legislature, Ms. Rice offered up some reading for members of the House to consider on the topic, reports which provide some background on the issues that face a number of British Columbians province wide. We have highlighted links to those reports in red below.

I draw attention to two reports from the Representative for Children and Youth that I think can really improve the youth mental health system. 

Lost in the Shadows: How a Lack of Help Meant a Loss of Hope for One First Nations Girl.

This report finds that the tragic suicide death of a 14-year-old girl in a rural B.C. First Nations community reveals a child protection system that is not reaching the children who need it most.

Lastly, as a guide for setting B.C. in the right direction, we should seriously heed the recommendations in 

Still Waiting: First-hand Experiences with Youth Mental Health Services in B.C.

Her full presentation can be reviewed from the Legislature Record for May 6th, Ms. Rice begins her comments at just after the 1010 mark on the timeline.

Her commentary is also available from the Legislature Video Archive for May 6th, her topic is introduced at the 11 minute, thirty five second mark on the Video timeline.

We have more on items of note from the Legislature available on our Archive page.

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