More Canadian Kids and Teens Are Going to Hospital ERs for Mental Health Treatment, and Officials Are Worried

Entrance to emergency room at hospital
There has been a recent increase in the number of Canadian children and teens seeking treatment for mental health concerns, and they’re going to hospital emergency rooms for help.A recent report from the Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI) found that ER visits for young Canadians (ages five to 24) seeking mental health treatments increased by 45% between 2006 and 2014. The number of inpatient hospitalizations for this same age group increased by 37% during the same time period, according to The Canadian Press and CBC News.

Although healthcare workers say that they’re glad to see the stigma of mental illness start to fade, they are still frustrated that teens feel their communities have no other resources for mental health treatment.

Many hospital workers note that mental health concerns require treatment over a long period of time, and hospitals don’t have the community resources necessary to ensure a full recovery.

For other healthcare workers, this trend makes it clear that communities have been failing to provide young citizens with the medical care that they need.

“It’s a pretty stark call to action,” said Dr. Stan Kutcher, a psychiatry professor at Dalhouse University. “”The kind of community-based, easily accessible treatments that we should be having are likely not there [in hospitals].”

Even though Canadians have free healthcare, it’s important to note that there are financial implications involved, too. When preventative care isn’t readily available, a medical problem may go unnoticed until it turns into a full-blown crisis.

This is actually the case where dental care is concerned, and the cost of providing reactive dental care, rather than preventative care, is partly why Canadians spend an estimated $12 billion annually on dental services. Because so many kids and young adults live in rural regions where dentists and dental technicians are scarce, the cost of a dental appointment doesn’t matter too much when it’s impossible to get to a dentist’s office in the first place.

In a similar way, mental health treatment options are affordable and acceptable, but in many regions of Canada, there simply aren’t enough facilities that can provide adequate treatment for pediatric mental health conditions.

Currently, the report states that about 8% of Canadian youth describes their mental health as “poor.”

Latest Mass Shooting Leads to More Questions About Gun Regulation, Mental Health Reform


By now, the news of Elliot Rodger’s shooting spree on the University of Santa Barbara’s campus that left six dead and 13 wounded is old news. Rodger’s belief that he was unfairly scorned by women in a time of his life he thought should be all about expressing his sexuality has been buried beneath layers of nonsense ranging from “if only people were nicer to him” to “what a poor, misunderstood guy.” Regardless of the mass media’s disturbing take on what should be a clear cut case of misguided value’s and mental illness, Rodger’s assault that ended in taking his own life is prompting lawmakers across the country to reconsider gun control laws, mental health reform, and the role of the media, just as has been the case with every other mass killing for the last decade.

Rodger’s Rampage Kicks up Talk of Gun, Mental Health Reform
Mr. Rodger bought the semiautomatic weapons used in the Santa Barbara slayings legally. He had no criminal history nor any background of mental health issues that a background check would have flagged. This ability for someone that has demonstrated publicly a desire to do others harm is prompting some legislative changes in California. Many lawmakers are now supporting so-called “gun violence restraining orders.” These orders can be issued by judges. As when seeking out a lawyer, those seeking out a judge’s assistance would have to demonstrate the credibility of their claims and the target individuals actions for the event or events they are seeking assistance. It’s a mild measure when compared to calls for complete prohibition on Capitol Hill, but it could be an effective one.

Of course, as those paying attention to national politics will know, there are many who believe that any sort of gun control legislation will have no effect on deranged individuals’ ability to do harm. Instead, many argue the focus should be placed on mental healthcare reform. Representative Tim Murphy (R-PA) is currently supporting a bill that would give families the ability to make decisions for their loved ones who demonstrate that they might have a problem. Rep. Ron Barber (D-AZ) is similarly supporting a mental health measure that would expand federal programs that aim to treat people with mental illness. As is so often the case after a shooting, however, there was a lot of immediate support for reform, but it quickly died out as the issue began to fade from collective memory.

Others Push for Greater Responsibility for Media Outlets
For many, both mental health reform and stricter gun control laws can and should work together to form a tighter net that will catch the criminally deranged before they take any legal action. However, many also argue that the media needs to be made responsible for their part. Consider Youtube’s role in all of this: Google has confirmed that some of Mr. Rodger’s videos that demonstrated his declining mental health as he prepared for his attack on Santa Barbara were removed from Youtube for violating its terms of service. However, with no legal responsibility to report Elliot Rodger as a threat to public security, the company did nothing more than that. 

For that reason, many are calling for laws that would place a legal burden on Google and other online outlets to report people they believe to be a threat to authorities as part of a digital Good Samaritan law. Perhaps then, in concert with gun law and mental health reform, we can finally see an end to these mass killings that have become so common.