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Mental health services for N.B. youth getting easier to access, health networks say

Young people can now talk to a counsellor more quickly, according to the Vitalité and Horizon health networks. (ESB Professional/Shutterstock - image credit)
Young people can now talk to a counsellor more quickly, according to the Vitalité and Horizon health networks. (ESB Professional/Shutterstock - image credit)

A new therapy model for children and youth is helping to reduce the waiting list for mental-health services, according to New Brunswick's regional health authorities.

The one-at-a-time or single-session therapy model sets people up with a counsellor within days so they can decide whether they need more help and want to be on the wait list for regular appointments, or if the one session was enough.

Carole Gallant, Vitalité Health Network's regional director for youth mental health, said the program has helped reduce their wait list by 66 per cent in about six months.

"When we see people in the moment of their need, while the desire for change is the strongest, it is the most effective and helpful," Gallant told Information Morning Moncton.

Radio-Canada
Radio-Canada

She said before this program, some people might wait months before they have that one-hour session. Now, they get to talk to a therapist within days, and they can speak about addiction, mental health and any stress they're experiencing.

If that person needs more than one session, then they continue with an assessment, get on a waiting list and get referred to a clinician.

More students report anxiety, depression

According to a survey released by the New Brunswick Health Council in September 2022, 47.8 per cent of students surveyed reported symptoms of anxiety. That's up from 32.6 per cent since 2015-2016.

Similarly, 41.7 per cent of students reported symptoms of depression compared to 31.2 per cent in 2015-2016.

Suicide is the second leading cause of death of people aged 15-34, according to Statistics Canada, with accidents being the first. The rankings have been steady since at least the year 2000, according to data.

Horizon Health Network started the program in late 2021 said Jennifer Little, regional director of child and youth services. The program has delivered a total of 1,151 one-time therapy sessions since then, "which have improved access to the range of addictions and mental health services and resulted in timely and effective treatment and care," she said.

Horizon spokesperson Kris McDavid said in May 2022 the wait list had 513 names on it, and by November, that number was 187 —  a reduction of 64 per cent.

Gallant said most children and youth will not need more than three sessions. She said the majority of those using the service are young people who self-refer or their family members.

The service is available at all community mental health and addiction services centres. People can walk in, or make an appointment, and they can have the session in person, by videoconference, or by phone.

No follow up appointment is scheduled at the end of these sessions, but the person can come back any time if they need to, Vitalite said. They can also get referred to more specialized services at the end of the session.

Gallant said speaking to people early and right away is critical to preventing suicide and attending to problems before they get worse.

If you are in crisis or know someone who is, here is where to get help:

CHIMO hotline: 1-800-667-5005  / http://www.chimohelpline.ca

Kids Help Phone: 1-800-668-6868,  Live Chat counselling at www.kidshelpphone.ca

Canada Suicide Prevention Service: 1-833-456-4566