Transcript: Are Ontario's Kids in Crisis? | May 07, 2021

Jeyan sits inside a living room with blue walls. He's is in his thirties, with short black hair and a trimmed beard. He's wearing a blue suit, white shirt, and striped blue tie.

A caption on screen reads "Are Ontario kids in crisis?"

Jeyan says CHILDREN AND YOUTH MENTAL HEALTH SERVICES HAVE BEEN RUNNING FULL TILT ACROSS THE PROVINCE DURING THIS PANDEMIC, BUT ARE THEY KEEPING UP? WITH US ON THAT, BOTH IN THE PROVINCIAL CAPITAL: OUR EASTERN ONTARIO HUB JOURNALIST MARSHA MCLEOD...

Marsha is in her twenties, with long wavy blond hair. She's wearing glasses, a pink blazer and an orange shirt.

Jeyan continues AND ASHLEY OKWUOSA, ASSISTANT EDITOR FOR TVO.org.

Ashley is in her thirties, with long curly black hair. She's wearing glasses and a dotted blue shirt.

Jeyan continues GOOD TO SEE YOU BOTH AGAIN.

Ashley says HI.

Jeyan says MARSHA, I'M GOING TO START WITH YOU. THE ARTICLE YOU BOTH WORKED ON SHOWS THE NEED FOR MENTAL HEALTH CARE EXCEEDS CAPACITY. CAN YOU CATCH US UP TO SPEED ON THE ISSUE?

A screenshot from the TVO website pops up showing an article. It reads "tvo.org/OntarioHubs. Mental Health Week. Kids in crisis: Inside Ontario's overloaded mental-health system. By Marsha McLeod and Ashley Okwuosa."

The caption changes to "Marsha McLeod. Eastern Ontario Hub Journalist."

Marsha says THE SYSTEM IS OPERATING AT PEAK CAPACITY, LIKE YOU SAID. WE KNOW THAT BEFORE THE PANDEMIC ACTUALLY THERE WAS ABOUT 28,000 CHILDREN AND YOUTH IN ONTARIO WHO WERE WAITING FOR COMMUNITY-BASED MENTAL HEALTH SUPPORT. AND WHAT WE FOUND IS DURING THE PANDEMIC, THE NUMBER OF CHILDREN IN SOME SETTINGS AND IN SOME CONDITIONS WHO ARE REACHING OUT FOR CARE IS INCREASING, AND IN PARTICULAR WITH RESPECT TO EATING DISORDERS. SO WE WERE AT SICK KIDS, FOR INSTANCE. THEIR NUMBER OF ADMISSIONS TO THEIR EATING DISORDER UNIT HAS INCREASED 55 percent OVER THE DURATION OF THE PANDEMIC COMPARED TO LAST YEAR AND AS WELL CLINICIANS REALLY TOLD US THAT CHILDREN ARE SHOWING UP MORE SICK WHEN THEY ARRIVE AT THE HOSPITAL AND ARE REQUIRING MORE INTENSIVE CARE WHEN THEY DO ARRIVE.

Jeyan says NOW, THIS WAS AN ARTICLE THAT TOOK SEVERAL WEEKS TO PUT TOGETHER. ASHLEY, CAN YOU TELL US A LITTLE BIT ABOUT THE METHODOLOGY BEHIND IT?

The caption changes to "Ashley Okwuosa. Assistant Editor, TVO.org."

Ashley says YEAH. SO WE STARTED WITH REALLY TRYING TO UNDERSTAND THE SCOPE OF THE PROBLEM, AND BY DOING THAT WE JUST STARTED LOOKING AT ASSISTING MEDIA COVERAGE. WE FOUND IN THE U.S. EMERGENCY ROOMS WERE SEEING FOUR TIMES MORE CHILDREN AND YOUTH THAN NORMAL. CHILDREN AND YOUTH WITH THE MOST COMPLEX MENTAL HEALTH DISORDERS ARE WAITING THE LONGEST. WE KNEW WHAT KINDS OF QUESTIONS WE WANTED TO ASK. WE KNEW HOT LINES AND HELP LINES WERE SEEING A SPIKE. WE WERE ABLE TO GATHER DATA FROM KIDS' HELP PHONE. WE FOUND 4.5 MILLION DOLLARS CHILDREN AND YOUTH ACROSS CANADA WERE CALLING, AND IN ONTARIO SPECIFICALLY, SOME OF THE MAJOR CONCERNS WERE ANXIETY, STRESS, DEPRESSION. AND WE ALSO WANTED TO GET THIS INFORMATION DIRECTLY FROM HOSPITALS IN TERMS OF CAPACITY. SO WE CREATED A SHORT SURVEY AND SENT IT TO ABOUT 22 HOSPITALS IN ONTARIO. WE WANTED TO FIND OUT IF AT ALL THEIR CAPACITY HAS CHANGED BECAUSE OF THE PANDEMIC AND IF THEY WERE SEEING AN INCREASE IN THE NUMBER OF REFERRALS TO THEIR INPATIENT EATING DISORDER PROGRAMS IF THEY HAD ANY. AND WE DEFINITELY WANTED TO GET THE FAMILIES' PERSPECTIVE. WE REALLY TURNED TO FACEBOOK GROUPS ONLINE. OBVIOUSLY A LOT OF IN-PERSON COMMUNICATION, YOU KNOW, WASN'T HAPPENING. SO THAT WAS DEFINITELY ONE AVENUE THAT WE USED TO FIND FAMILIES TO SPEAK TO US.

Jeyan says MARSHA, YOU MENTIONED EATING DISORDERS. YOU GUYS LEARNED THAT EATING DISORDERS AMONG YOUTH ARE ON THE RISE. WE HAVE AN IDEA OF WHAT IS CONTRIBUTING TO THAT?

The caption changes to "Marsha McLeod, @marshamcleod_."

Marsha says ONE CLINGS AT SICK KIDS SAID TO US A POSSIBLE EXPLANATION IS ISOLATION AND LOSS OF ROUTINES SO MANY CHILDREN ARE FACING DURING THE PANDEMIC. SHE ALSO CAUTIOUSLY SUGGESTED THAT ANOTHER CONTRIBUTING FACTOR COULD BE THE INCREASED INTERNET TIME FOR CHILDREN DURING THE PANDEMIC AND REALLY WHAT THAT MEANS, SO INCREASED ACCESS TO DIETING OR EXERCISE CONTENT, AND ANOTHER CLINICIAN IN KINGSTON SAID TO US, YOU KNOW, REALLY LOOK AT THE LOSS THAT CHILDREN HAVE FACED, OUTLETS OF SCHOOL, MAYBE SEEING FRIENDS, OF SPORTS, AND EVEN ONE PARENT OF A CHILD WHO IS STRUGGLING WITH AN EATING DISORDER, SHE SAID TO US THAT SHE THOUGHT THAT PERHAPS HER DAUGHTER'S EATING DISORDER AND THIS REAL INTENSE FOCUS ON DIETING AND EXERCISE WAS SORT OF A MISPLACED WAY FOR HER TO PUT HER ENERGY AND FOCUS ONTO SOMETHING IN A TIME WHERE SO MUCH WAS UP IN THE AIR.

Jeyan says ASHLEY, I WANT TO FOLLOW UP ON THAT. WHEN WE TALK ABOUT EATING DISORDERS, WHAT'S AT RISK WHEN YOUNG PEOPLE HAVE TO WAIT FOR THE RIGHT TYPE OF TREATMENT?

The caption changes to "Ashley Okwuosa, @ashleyokwuosa."

Ashley says I THINK MARSHA ALLUDED TO THIS. BUT CLINICIANS HAVE TOLD US YOUNG PEOPLE ARE COMING IN IN MORE SERIOUS CONDITION. ONE CLINICIAN SAID WE'D LIKE TO BE GETTING TO THESE KIDS MUCH EARLIER. THEY'RE COMING IN IN WHAT'S DESCRIBED AS MEDICALLY COMPROMISED SITUATIONS WHICH COULD LOOK LIKE A LOWER RESTING HEART RATE, FOR EXAMPLE. AND REALLY THE EMOTIONAL AND PHYSICAL STRAIN ON THE YOUTH THEMSELVES THAT ARE EXPERIENCING THE EATING DISORDERS AND THE FAMILIES ARE REALLY SEEKING HELP, YOU KNOW, WE SAW A LOT OF PARENTS GO INTO THE EMERGENCY ROOM REPEATEDLY BECAUSE THEIR CHILDREN WERE REPEATEDLY IN CRISIS, BECAUSE THEY DIDN'T HAVE HELP IN THE COMMUNITY. SO THAT WAS ONE THING WE DEFINITELY SAW.

Jeyan says NOW, CONCERNED MEDICAL PROFESSIONALS SAY THAT THE PROVINCE'S CHILD AND YOUTH MENTAL HEALTH SYSTEM WAS SEVERELY OVERBURDENED WELL BEFORE THE PANDEMIC AND IT'S NOW WORSENED. MARSHA, DO WE HAVE AN IDEA OF WHAT THE GOVERNMENT HAS BEEN DOING OVER THE PAST 14 MONTHS?

Marsha says IN OCTOBER OF 2020, THE ONTARIO GOVERNMENT INVESTED ABOUT 24 MILLION DOLLARS INTO CHILDREN AND YOUTH MENTAL HEALTH. WE ALSO KNOW THAT IN FEBRUARY OF THIS YEAR, THEY INVESTED ABOUT 10 MILLION DOLLARS INTO SOMETHING CALLED SECURE MENTAL HEALTH TREATMENT. PARTICULARLY AT ONE CENTRE, INCLUDING ONE CENTRE IN OAKVILLE, THIS IS SOMETHING ADVOCATES FOUND A LITTLE CONFUSING BECAUSE LESS THAN A WEEK LATER THE GOVERNMENT CUT FUNDING TO THAT SAME CENTRE FOR VERY SIMILAR TYPE OF TREATMENTS TO WHICH THEY JUST FUNDED. OVERALL WE DO KNOW THAT ADVOCATES SAY THE INVESTMENTS HAVE NOT BEEN ENOUGH AND THAT ONE ESTIMATE BY AN ORGANIZATION CALLED CMHO SAYS THAT 150 MILLION DOLLARS IS THE ANNUAL PRICE TAG OF GETTING THE SYSTEM UP TO WHERE IT NEEDS TO BE. SO THAT MEANS AN ADDITIONAL 150 MILLION DOLLARS EVERY SINGLE YEAR TO GET TO THE PLACE WHERE CHILDREN AREN'T WAITING MONTHS OR EVEN A FEW YEARS ON WAITLISTS FOR COUNSELLING AND THERAPY SERVICES.

Jeyan says NOW, YOU GUYS MENTIONED THE FACEBOOK GROUPS YOU SPOKE TO A NUMBER OF FAMILIES WHO ARE STRUGGLING RIGHT NOW WITH GETTING THE RIGHT KIND OF TREATMENT. ASHLEY, I WANT TO ASK YOU, WHAT STORIES STOOD OUT TO YOU?

Ashley says SO THERE'S ONE FAMILY, AMBER, TOM, AND HANNAH. THEY LIVE IN BURLINGTON. IT'S BEEN WHAT CAN ONLY BE DESCRIBED AS A ROLLER COASTER FOR THEM IN TERMS OF SEEKING HELP. YOU KNOW, THEIR DAUGHTER HAD DEALT WITH AN EATING DISORDER PRIOR AND FACED WHAT SHE DESCRIBED AS A RELAPSE DURING THE PANDEMIC. OVER THE LAST YEAR, SHE WAS ADMITTED TO McMASTER CHILDREN'S HOSPITAL FOUR TIMES AND WHEN SHE TURNED 18 WAS ADMITTED TO ANOTHER HOSPITAL MULTIPLE TIMES. FINALLY SHE WAS ABLE TO GET HELP. SHE WAS ACTUALLY ABLE TO GET ACCESS TO AN INPATIENT PROGRAM AND SHE WAS THERE FOR ABOUT A MONTH. I THINK WHAT STOOD OUT TO ME REALLY WAS THE STRENGTH THAT THIS FAMILY WAS DEFINITELY ABLE TO MUSTER IN WHAT WAS UNDENIABLY A DIFFICULT TIME IN THEIR LIFE.

Jeyan says I WANT TO ACTUALLY ASK YOU BOTH THIS QUESTION: OVERALL YOU GUYS HAVE SPENT SEVERAL WEEKS PUTTING THIS TOGETHER, SPEAKING TO A NUMBER OF PEOPLE. WHAT IS YOUR TAKE-AWAY FROM HAVING DONE THIS RESEARCH, AND I'LL START WITH ASHLEY.

Ashley says SO THE GENERAL CONCERN FROM PHYSICIANS ABOUT WHAT HAPPENS WHEN THE PANDEMIC IS OVER, THAT WAS EVIDENT. YOU KNOW, THERE WAS SOME CERTAINTY FROM THEM THAT THERE WILL BE LONG-TERM EFFECTS TO THE MENTAL HEALTH OF YOUTH DUE TO WHAT THEY'RE EXPERIENCING NOW. ONE CLINICIAN SAID WE'VE NEVER BEEN IN THIS SITUATION BEFORE SO NO ONE KNOWS WHAT THE FUTURE WILL HOLD. THEY SAID THE MENTAL IMPACT ON CHILDREN AND YOUTH WILL BE FELT FOR A CONSIDERABLE PERIOD OF TIME.

Jeyan says MARSHA, I WANT TO ASK YOU, ANY TAKE-AWAYS? I KNOW YOU SPOKE TO A NUMBER OF CLINICIANS AND FAMILIES AS WELL. WAS THERE ANYTHING THAT STOOD OUT TO YOU AND WAS THERE A TAKE-AWAY FROM THE RESEARCH THAT YOU GUYS DID?

Marsha says I THINK WHAT STOOD OUT TO ME AND EVEN JUST SORT OF WITH RESPECT TO WHAT THE FAMILIES THAT ASHLEY SHARED ABOUT, AND SO MANY OF THE FAMILIES WE TALKED TO, IS JUST HOW TIRED THEY ARE. 14 MONTHS INTO THE PANDEMIC, THEY HAD SHOWN SUCH CAPACITY AND RESILIENCE, BUT IT HAS BEEN SO EXHAUSTING AND THAT REALLY A LOT OF THE INFORMAL SUPPORTS THAT THEY WOULD HAVE RELIED ON ARE GONE, WHETHER THAT'S FAMILY OR CHURCH OR AFTER-SCHOOL PROGRAMS. ONE PARENT SAID TO ME THAT: I HOPE AFTER CoVID THAT WE REALLY JUST HAVE MORE ENERGY BECAUSE RIGHT NOW WE'RE JUST TRYING TO GET THROUGH THE DAY.

Jeyan says I DO WANT A QUICK LITTLE FOLLOW-UP WITH YOU GUYS IN TERMS OF, YOU KNOW, IF PARENTS ARE SEEING THIS AND, YOU KNOW, THEIR CHILDREN ARE STRUGGLING, WHERE CAN THEY GO?

Marsha says IT IS A VERY COMPLICATED QUESTION AND IT'S HARD FOR US TO SAY. PARENTS CAN LOOK UP THIS INTERNET ADDRESS AND FIND OUT EXACTLY WHERE TO GO. I THINK EVEN THE QUESTION JUST BRINGS UP THAT IT REALLY IS SUCH A COMPLICATED THING AND OFTEN IT STARTS WITH THE FAMILY DOCTOR, BUT FROM THERE, OFTEN PARENTS AND FAMILIES ARE ZIGZAGGING ALL AROUND THE SYSTEM AND IT OFTEN TAKES YEARS TO GET TO WHERE THEY NEED TO GO.

Ashley says THERE ARE SOME COMMUNITY ORGANIZATIONS THAT HAVE COME UP WITH LIKE THE ROCK CENTRE FOR OUTREACH. THEY'VE COME UP WITH PROGRAMS THAT REALLY ARE TARGETED AT HELP-SEEKING, RIGHT? SO PARENTS CAN CALL AND SAY THIS IS KIND OF WHAT'S GOING ON OR CHILDREN CAN CALL THEMSELVES AND THEY'RE ABLE TO DIRECT FAMILIES TO WHERE THEY NEED TO GO. LIKE MARSHA SAID, IT REALLY IS A MAZE.

The caption changes to "Producer: Carla Lucchetta, @carrletta."

Jeyan says MARSHA McLEOD AND ASHLEY OKWUOSA, THANK YOU GUYS BOTH.

An animated slate reads "Ontario Hubs. Ontario Hubs are made possible by The Barry and Laurie Green Family Charitable Trust and Goldie Feldman."

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