May 16, 2011 – 1:10 PM ET
| Last Updated: May 16, 2011 1:15 PM ET
There have been numerous warnings issued lately about the shortage of mental health services for Canada’s young people, and the sometimes dire consequences. A new study confirms with hard numbers that children and teenagers often face lengthy wait lists to get help for psychiatric troubles.
Researchers at the University of Calgary and Dalhousie University in Halifax surveyed 379 centres across the country that offer mental-health services to youth, with just under a third responding. Less than 9% reported no waiting lists, and fewer than a third said they could meet the wait-time goals set out by the Canadian Psychiatric Association.
Patients with the most urgent needs do seem to get the speediest care, however that seems to mean inordinately long queues for others. The average wait for a child rated as low priority – who, for instance, is avoiding group activities because of anxiety – is 109 days. For a high-priority patient who might have been suspended from school for serious aggressive behaviour, the wait is 29 days. Those considered extremely high priority, exhibiting serious suicidal or homicidal behaviour for exmple, the average delay is 3.4 days. That is the time for them merely to get a consultation with a therapist; receiving treatment could take longer.
Said the authors in a paper just published in the Journal of the Canadian Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry:
The findings confirm concerns about the prevalence of wait times for CAMHS in Canada, and also note marked variability.
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