Celebrate orange shirt day, Sept. 30

Orange Shirt Day is an Indigenous-led, grassroots movement started by Phyllis Webstad, a Northern Secwpemc (Shuswap) woman and residential school survivor, in 2013. Its aim is to recognize the harm the residential school system did to Indigenous children and their families.

In 2021, the federal government declared Sept 30 the National Day of Truth and Reconciliation. The commemoration is intended to be an act of reconciliation to acknowledge the harm done to First Peoples.

The day is an important reminder of the need to recognize the strength and resistance of those who lived through and survived the violence of the residential school and colonial systems — and to reflect on our continuing impact on the lives of Indigenous peoples. For more information on Orange Shirt Day and to learn how you might become involved, go here.

For more information about fighting racism, see Vol. 15, No. 3 of the Children’s Mental Health Research Quarterly.

Improving the mental health of BC’s children in care

Children in government care face extraordinary challenges. Some of them may have entered  care because they have experienced maltreatment. Then once in the care system, many continue to experience avoidable adversities, such as multiple changes of placement.

This situation can lead to inconsistent caring relationships, school disruptions and cultural disconnections. These children also face higher rates of mental disorders, lower rates of high-school graduation and more conflicts with the law.

Compounding these issues are the unfair burdens faced by Indigenous children who often experience overinvolvement of the child welfare system, an ongoing legacy of colonialism.

How to reduce the need for care — or manage it better when it’s necessary —  was the subject of a report recently prepared by the Children’s Health Policy Centre at the request of the office of the BC Representative for Children and Youth.

The report identifies:

  • Successful programs for preventing child maltreatment
  • Numbers on the burden of mental disorders for children in care, with prevalence approximately four times higher than in the general population of children
  • Successful prevention and treatment programs for addressing mental well-being specifically for children in government care

These findings can inform efforts to improve the well-being of some of British Columbia’s most disadvantaged children.

For more information and to review the entire report, see here.


Dealing with the overdose crisis means starting with children

How can the province of BC better address the current opioid crisis?

That was the subject of a 60-minute Zoom-based talk by the Children’s Health Policy Centre on Aug. 3/22 to the Select Standing Committee on Health for the BC Legislature.

Roughly 10 MLAs and their staff attended to hear a presentation prepared by Charlotte Waddell, Christine Schwartz, Nicole Catherine, Jen Barican and Donna Young.

The CHPC team urged the province to tackle the toxic drug supply problem in a new way — by addressing social inequities that contribute to substance use problems for young people and by providing effective prevention and treatment programs for them. 

“We need to start early in life — not waiting until problems are entrenched in adolescence or adulthood,” said director of the Centre, Charlotte Waddell. “We also need to address the underlying social inequities that are driving the problem.”

The group suggested that the province needs to double its investments in child and youth mental health and work to ensure that services are better coordinated across the multiple ministries and health authorities currently involved.


More children need mental health help

An estimated 13% of children and youth in Canada have mental disorders at any given time, and most do not receive mental health care. Therefore, many more young people need to be reached. Taking a comprehensive public health approach is the best strategy for meeting these needs. Such a strategy involves addressing social determinants of mental health, including avoidable adverse childhood experiences; promoting healthy development for all children; preventing mental disorders in children at risk; providing treatment for all children with mental disorders; and monitoring outcomes.

Aug 31 is International Overdose Awareness Day

International Overdose Awareness Day is a reminder of the harm that drugs inflict on our society — especially illegal drug toxicity deaths, which continue to set records in BC and across Canada. International Overdose Awareness Day also aims to reduce the stigma attached to the issue, most of which is unfairly faced by victims and their families. The Children’s Health Policy Centre takes the position that for youth, most risk factors for problematic substance use relate to adverse family circumstances, in particular, family socio-economic disadvantage. A recent issue of the Children’s Mental Health Quarterly explored the topic of how to prevent problematic substance use among youth.

Celebrating an agreement between the Assembly of First Nations and the Cdn gov’t

Money to compensate young people harmed by Canada’s discriminatory child welfare system is expected to begin flowing to Indigenous communities sometime next year, now that the federal government and the Assembly of First Nations (AFN) have reached a final settlement agreement.

Ottawa, the AFN and plaintiffs in two class-action cases reached an agreement-in-principle earlier this year. The parties announced in July that the agreement had been finalized.

In total, $20 billion will be made available to:

  • First Nations children on-reserve and in the Yukon who were removed from their homes between April 1, 1991 and March 31, 2022.
  • Those affected by what the government called its “narrow definition” of Jordan’s Principle, used between Dec. 12, 2007 and Nov. 2, 2017. (Jordan’s Principle aims to ensure Indigenous children living in Canada can get access to the products, services and supports they need, when they need them.)
  • Children who did not receive an essential public service or faced delays in accessing such services between April 1, 1991 and Dec. 11, 2007.
  • Caregiving parents or grandparents of the children covered by the agreement who may also be eligible for compensation.

In view of the International Day of the World’s Indigenous People, taking place Aug. 9, the Children’s Health Policy Centre celebrates this recent decision. We encourage readers to commit to fighting racism, a topic we explored in Vol. 15, No. 3 of the Children’s Mental Health Research Quarterly.

How can we better help children at risk for psychosis?

The Children’s Health Policy Centre suggest three recommendations to guide research, practice and policy relating to psychosis:

  • Build on what has been discovered so far. Although one study examining a food supplement showed promise, more studies are needed to ensure the results can be replicated.
  • Learn from effective adult interventions. Rigorous evidence from studies involving high-risk adults indicates that psychosocial interventions can prevent psychosis in this population. Evaluating the same interventions for high-risk youth could result in new — and earlier — prevention options.
  • Provide comprehensive care for high-risk young people. Even though prevention research is still emerging, practitioners can play a crucial role by providing services for youth at risk of psychosis. Such services include monitoring, providing education and supports, and prescribing antipsychotics if these medications become warranted.

Given that psychosis profoundly influences developmental trajectories starting in adolescence, and given the high associated burdens and costs for individuals and for society, preventing psychosis is an important goal. For more information on psychosis, see Vol. 14, No. 3 of the Children’s Mental Health Research Quarterly.

Are there effective psychosocial interventions for youth at-risk for psychosis?

Two psychosocial interventions — Auditory Cognitive Training  and Family-Focused Treatment — have been proposed as treatment for helping youth at risk of psychosis. But both interventions failed to produce significant benefits in recent evaluations. Auditory Cognitive Training led to no difference between the intervention and control groups regarding psychotic symptoms, overall functioning or any cognitive outcomes, including learning, memory, problem-solving and processing speed. Family-Focused Treatment also failed to produce significant benefits. At the end of treatment, no statistically significant difference was found between intervention and control groups regarding psychotic symptoms or overall functioning. For more information on psychosis, see Vol. 14, No. 3 of the Children’s Mental Health Research Quarterly.