The tragic end to a search for a missing Vancouver Island teenager has renewed calls for access to mental health services for youth.
Andre Courtmarche was found dead in Goldstream Provincial Park Saturday, concluding a week-long search for the 16 year old.
Courtmarche had left his family home in Langford on New Year’s Day, following an argument with his parents over video games.
The teen, who had struggled with depression for two years, had died by suicide.
His parents say they’d faced delays in getting their son help for his mental health. In a cruel twist of fate, the family got a call during the search for their son to say he’d finally been accepted for an appointment with a psychiatrist.
On Wednesday, B.C.’s representative for children and youth told Global News the province’s already “woefully inadequate” mental health system has been made worse by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It’s the kind of case we hear of too often, and it breaks my heart,” Jennifer Charlesworth said.
Charlelsworth recently co-authored a report on the impact the pandemic is having on youth mental health.
She says the number of youth facing mental health challenges that could affect their day-to-day lives has seen a five-fold increase.
Charlesworth said even before the pandemic, the province’s mental health services were not up to the task.
“Imagine we had a system that was already dealing with significant wait lists, and now we’ve got a pandemic, and we’ve got an inability for many practitioners to provide one-to-one care or in-person care which is what many young people need, pivot to a virtual system particularly where you don’t have technology is very problematic.”
Charlesworth said as of May, 2020, there were already 2,500 B.C. youth on wait lists for mental health services.
The average wait was about two months, she said, though in some cases deemed to be of lower risk, the wait can be much longer.
Indigenous and racialized youth are disproportionately affected, she said, noting that as many as 30 per cent of Indigenous youth don’t have access to the technology to access virtual services.
Along with wait lists, Charlesworth said some services are not accessible in smaller or remote communities, and she said the province also suffers from a lack of professionals in some key areas.
She’s calling on the province to step up with more funding to prevent future cases like Courtmarche’s.
“Fundamentally, it is recognizing that we have a significant problem, and without investing now, and anticipating we’re going to need to continue to invest for the foreseeable future, then we’re going to continue to have significant tragedies and quality of life lost for many of our young people,” she said.
A GoFundMe campaign has since been established to support Courtmache’s grieving family.
If you or someone you know is in crisis and needs help, resources are available. In case of an emergency, please call 911 for immediate help.
The Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention, Depression Hurts, Kids Help Phone 1-800-668-6868, and the Trans Lifeline 1-877-330-6366 all offer ways of getting help if you, or someone you know, may be suffering from mental health issues.