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Making Mental Health a Family Affair

In Ontario, twenty per cent of children suffer from mental illness, and suicide is the second leading cause of death among youth aged ten to 19, second only to accidental death. Despite these statistics, only one in six children who suffer from mental illness is receiving treatment.

Parents with a child who has a mental health challenge need access to the right information to make informed decisions about their child’s treatment. Finding their way through the maze of programs and services can be overwhelming. With the help of Parents for Children’s Mental Health (PCMH), parents can connect with people or families who have already been down that road.

PCMH is funded in part through the RBC Children’s Mental Health Project, a multi-year philanthropic commitment to support community-based and hospital programs that reduce stigma, provide early intervention and increase public awareness about children’s mental health issues. PCMH is led by parents and provides a voice for families facing the challenges of child and youth mental health issues. The organization provides support and education that empower families. It also provides access to networks of families, communities, agencies and the government.

Focusing on family

When it comes to mental health, a strong family perspective is essential to help prepare children and youth for the future and assist them with the daily challenges they may face. PCMH presentations delve into the unique perspective of family and how their decisions can directly impact children’s lives.

PCMH peer support groups introduce families to like-minded, like-motivated people, with the same goals and priorities – their children. The “blame game” often becomes the common theme among families who have someone with a mental illness. PCMH helps families move beyond this phase to focus on the more important issue of dealing with childhood onset mental health disorders. If signs of mental illness are recognized early and appropriate interventions are taken, children can go on to lead normal and productive lives.

“Families are forced to deal with discrimination and judgment that largely comes from stigma and we believe this stigma is grounded in fear," says executive director Sarah Cannon.

Children’s mental health can be seen as an invisible disability. From The Inside is a unique and innovative interactive workshop offered by PCMH. It brings the challenges children and youth face when dealing with mental illness to life, through simulations and role playing.

Since 2009, the RBC Children’s Mental Health Project has been our cornerstone “health and wellness” pillar, and to date, we have donated more than $6.5 million to more than 125 organizations across Canada.