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Edmonton Youth Council says funding for mental health is lacking

Rajah Maggay (left) and Kasey Enokson (right) of the City of Edmonton Youth Council Health and Wellness committee. Scott Johnston/ 630 CHED

Early input for an online survey posted by the City of Edmonton Youth Council shows large gaps in the mental health system.

As a remedy, the council is proposing “integrated youth service hubs” spread throughout the city to create one-stop shopping for youth looking to access mental health services outside of the post-secondary school system.

“We’ve kind of seen that there’s a lot of youth who are financially struggling to get services,” said Kasey Enokson, who chairs the youth council’s health and wellness committee.

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Enokson said that after a week, the survey has received about 300 responses, many of which point to former high school students who had the benefit of counselling, only to be suddenly cut off.

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Rajah Maggay, the committee’s vice-chair, spoke about the issue and agreed that it creates difficulties for some youth.

“Especially when you felt like you opened up in a certain way to this one health-care provider, and going through that process all over again discourages youth from the ages of 19 all the way to 25 from going out and finding that help again,” she said.

“[It’s an issue that impacts] not just students, but lower-income families and middle-class families — therapy is very expensive,” said Anika Gahun, a third-year psychology student at MacEwan University who took the survey.

The problem is money, according to Councillor Scott McKeen.

“Do we do health services and social services? No,” he said. “But we sure bloody well take responsibility for defending our citizens and their needs.”

City council will advocate on behalf of the youth council to get partners involved in creating the youth service hubs.

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“This survey can help us inform how those are going to be shaped,” said Councillor Michael Walters.

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“And as clear as day, to me, those are services and support hubs that are lacking,” he said. “The number of young people struggling with mental health is blowing my mind.

“Just the sheer number, the stories we hear. We see it play out in the reports we’re getting on opioid addiction,” Walters added. “We’re seeing… two-year waiting lists to get in to see a childhood psychiatrist. We see it play out in the massive wait-lists for residential services at CASA (mental health services provider),” Walters said.

The online survey will remain up until the end of June.