Carole James MLA Report – November

Earlier this year I met with a group of parents of young people who have struggled with mental health issues. These families shared heartbreaking stories of trying to get help, being told to go to the emergency room at the hospital, and then being sent home without supports in place.

I spoke with parents who had lost a child to suicide and nothing will take that pain away.

Families are calling out for assistance; they are doing everything they can to support their children, and are frustrated and heartbroken at the lack of services.

It is long past time to act. The most recent Coroner's report is yet another wake up call for our province about the supports desperately needed for vulnerable children. This report clearly shows that at-risk youth in B.C. need government action now.

The review analyzed 91 deaths between 2008 and 2012 and put forward recommendations to address risk factors and promote mental health. It says we must do a better job coordinating services, we must improve access to child and youth mental health services, and we must advance the ways child and youth suicides are investigated and reported.

It’s time the barriers to mental health services were knocked down. That includes creating better transitions between community mental health and acute hospital services and from child and youth to adult mental health services. The review also recommends that the B.C. Coroners Service review its investigative questions around sexual orientation and bullying to ensure information is being gathered consistently.

These recommendations echo what I hear every day from families, caregivers and agencies caring for children and youth, and what we’ve seen in earlier reports. The issue could not be clearer: we need action on this issue today.

I am urging the provincial government to accept the recommendations in the report. It must announce a clear implementation plan, with a timeline and resources dedicated to addressing the risk factors and supports needed.

This isn’t the first time this government has been made aware of the situation. Reports by the Representative for Children and Youth have also offered analysis and recommendations on the topic of youth mental health, and youth at risk of self-harm and suicide.

We have been told before that the government will address youth mental health, the service gaps facing vulnerable kids, and the system’s failure of children in care. But there have been no plans, no details, and no money. It’s part of a pattern of more talk rather than real action, and it must stop.

These issues won't be solved overnight. They demand a commitment of time, resources, and willingness from all of us, including the provincial government, to come together to better serve children.

Every one of these deaths is devastating for the families, friends, and loved ones, and it’s a loss of potential to our society. Every child has a right to experience success and opportunity and happiness. We are long overdue to make children a top priority in our province. What could be more important?

If you’d like to read the review, it’s online at http://www.pssg.gov.bc.ca/coroners/child-death-review/docs/death-review-...

The 2012 review by the Representative for Children and Youth is at http://www.rcybc.ca/Images/PDFs/Reports/RCY_SSH_Report-FINAL.pdf

Carole James
MLA for Victoria-Beacon Hill