Youth Mental Health project--building awareness and empowering transition-age youth

Issue: BCMJ, Vol. 56, No. 8, October 2014, page(s) 384 Pulsimeter
Lloyd Oppel, MD, MHSc, FCFP(Em)

Mental health tools and resources

While an estimated 12% to 20% of transition-age youth (15 to 24 years old) in British Columbia suffer from some form of mental illness, the majority will not seek professional intervention. The reasons for this include a lack of understanding of mental health and how to recognize mental illness, a lack of awareness about where to seek assistance, and the stigma attached to mental illness.

Some of the most common mental health challenges experienced by transition-age youth, including depression and anxiety, can be properly diagnosed and treated in a primary health care setting, yet many youth do not realize that physicians are a resource for mental health concerns. The Doctors of BC Council on Health Promotion (COHP) made this issue a major focus for 2013/14.

It is clear that youth must be equipped with knowledge about mental health and have skills and coping strategies to deal with the transition to independence. Already, many organizations in British Columbia, and across Canada have developed excellent mental health information, tools, and resources for youth, families, schools, and health care providers. There exists an opportunity for Doctors of BC to raise awareness among youth and to increase the likelihood that this population will work with their primary care physicians to address mental health concerns.

After engaging with key stakeholders (from government to community groups and youth) Doctors of BC produced a policy paper that committed to highlight for patients, families, and physicians the existing local and regional mental health resources, services, and programs. Physicians are encouraged to make use of tools such as the PSP Youth Mental Health Module when appropriate to their practice.

The paper also recommends that government and health authorities take action to address system capacity issues and to disseminate information on available mental health resources to physicians.

A key part of the project is the promotion of existing tools that enable youth, parents, and teachers to assess mental health concerns and to connect with primary care physicians. To do this, Doctors of BC has created an information hub in the form of the microsite

We will be promoting the site through various avenues, including posters designed by youth (sent to GP clinics across BC).

By enabling young adults to use existing resources to take stock of their mental health, by encouraging physicians and patients to initiate conversations about mental well-being, and by providing an information hub to inform and empower youth and those caring for them, the Doctors of BC Youth Mental Health Project is taking action to make sure that our transition-age patients can take their best steps forward into the adult world.
--Lloyd Oppel, MD
Chair, Council on Health Promotion