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Wired! taps into youth to keep them out of crisis

Imagine you have a 15-year old daughter who doesn't want to go to school. She complains of stomach aches, headaches and is so stressed by the idea of public speaking, taking a test or her classmates that you can't understand or help her. Is this a phase or something more serious?

Anxiety disorders are the most commonly diagnosed mental illnesses in children under the age of 18. In fact, anxiety-based crises are one of the most frequent causes of emergency-room mental health visits by youth in Canada.

"Emergency room visits are often used to stabilize crises and to help the child and parents gain access to resources," says Dr. Amanda Newton, Clinician Scientist, Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at Stollery Children's Hospital. "Most youth receive some counselling during their visit to emergency, but they don't get the ongoing help they need. Treatment needs to continue after the visit to ensure the youth can overcome their challenges."

To fill the gap, Dr. Newton and her team are developing a program called Wired!, designed to help youth manage anxiety, before it escalates to the emergency room.

Wired! is a first-line treatment for youth who are managing mild or moderate anxiety. It's based on cognitive behavioural therapy, a proven, effective approach for reducing anxiety symptoms and improving a child's daily functioning. Wired! offers self-paced, online learning through interactive videos, games, a therapist-moderated discussion board, comic strips and more, giving patients useful tools to manage anxiety themselves. It also offers resources for parents on how to support their children and ensure they're coping.

"The Wired! program will help us reach more families than we ever could through traditional clinic-based treatment," says Newton. "Ultimately I hope to see this program grow and become part of the school curriculum across Canada. We want to reach kids before a crisis even occurs. With the funding we have received from RBC, we have the resources to expand the program further than we imagined possible."

Wired! is currently begin developed and will undergo testing in fall 2013.

The RBC Foundation has donated more than $750,000 to Stollery Children's Hospital through the RBC Children's Mental Health Project since 1991. The RBC Children's Mental Heath Project is 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. Since 2008, the RBC Children's Mental Health Project has donated over $16 million to more than 200 organizations across Canada.