Manitoba Child and Youth Advocate: In Manitoba, suicide is the leading manner of death for young people ages 10-17.
On national Youth Mental Health Day the Manitoba Advocate for Children and Youth released “Stop Giving Me a Number and Start Giving Me a Person: How 22 Girls Illuminate the Cracks in the Manitoba Youth Mental Health and Addiction System”. The report focuses on the suicide of 22 girls aged 11-17 from mostly rural and norther communities between 2013 -2019. 20 of the victims were either First Nations or Métis.
These girls did not have appropriate access to mental health and addictions services where they lived. And as we know from past reports, like The Slow Disappearance of Matthew (February 2020), demand for these provincial services in Winnipeg already outpaces supply,” Penrose said. All of the girls in this report also experienced early childhood traumas, but only three were offered some type of professional trauma-related interventions in their early and middle years.
Similar to the findings of our 22 child death investigations, the Virgo Report repeatedly noted that the availability of, and accessibility to, services in the mental health and addictions systems vary greatly across our province by region. Rural and remote communities throughout Manitoba, for example, experience limited access to services and supports due to their location and the availability of service providers. Of course, these rural. and remote locations, where services are limited or non-existent are also the locations populated by Indigenous Peoples. This leads to unequal access to provincial services, which is a children’s rights issue.
This current investigation found that many of the Virgo Report’s criticisms of Manitoba’s youth mental health and addictions system remain true today and are certainly reflected in the stories of the 22 girls which informed this report. These include a lack of access to locally available services, a lack of follow-up support after crisis, service providers not communicating and collaborating to carry out plans, a lack of access to culturally appropriate services, and services that do not match the needs of youth
- Conduct a gap analysis – The province must see what services are available in youth mental health and addictions and release a public framework and its strategic plan for system overhaul.
- Demonstrate equitable access to services – The province must spread youth mental health and addictions services throughout Manitoba in any future frameworks or strategic plans.
- Train workers on trauma and its effects – The province must provide early childhood trauma education to all government service providers working with children and youth.
- Help families learn where the right resources are – The province must conduct and publicize an annual inventory of what therapeutic trauma interventions are available to children and youth in Manitoba, describing whether services require referrals and what their eligibility criteria are.
- Create more youth hubs – In keeping with recommendation 4.8 of the Virgo Report, the province must establish more youth hubs outside of Winnipeg, providing access to community-based services like counselling, tutoring and extracurricular activities
- Create “focal points” outside of Winnipeg – In keeping with recommendation 2.11 of the Virgo Report, the province must develop “focal points” outside Winnipeg, so that all Manitobans can have access to urgent and acute mental health and addictions clinicians and other professionals and services closer to their homes.
- Create long-term treatment for youth with the highest needs – The province must develop an inpatient or community-based long-term treatment facility that offers stabilization, assessment, treatment and aftercare for youth at the top tier of mental health and addiction service needs.