- Mental Health
- Substance Use
- Healthy Living
As a mental health professional who works with youth, I am frustrated by how often we turn people away from our mental health services. There are many reasons why we do this. Sometimes we feel that a problem can be better addressed elsewhere. Sometimes we are dealing with other youth with more urgent concerns. Sometimes we just do not have enough staff to deal with all the demand.
What ends up happening is that only the sickest youth get help. Youth who are suicidal, displaying psychotic behavior, or hurting other people are the ones most likely to get timely help. Youth who have legitimate but “non-urgent” concerns like panic attacks or mild depression get turned away.
I am looking to change that. In partnership with the Mood Disorders Association of BC (MDABC) and Providence Health Care, a group of my colleagues have started the Youth Psychiatry Clinic (YPC) in downtown Vancouver. We see youth age 12-17 with mild or moderate mood, anxiety, or attention problems. Everyone is seen within four weeks of referral. We offer nearly unlimited follow-up by our doctors. YPC has also partnered with the Counselling and Wellness Centre at MDABC to offer a range of therapy options that are medication-free.
How we do this is by using group visits for follow-up. Group visits have been used for more than a decade by respected institutions like the Cleveland Clinic to help people with conditions such as asthma, diabetes, and high blood pressure. My colleagues Dr. Ron Remick and Elizabeth Baerg-Hall started using group visits in BC to help people with a range of mental health concerns. They found that group visits encourage people to ask questions and share their experiences with one another. People participating in the groups became experts in their own mental health. Often times, the doctor did not have to say much because people were helping each other! Another benefit of group visits is that they are longer than typical individual visits: Most group visits are 1-2 hours long whereas an individual visit is often only 15-30 minutes. This means more time with a doctor. At YPC, we offer group visits to both youth and their families. We try to have between two to six participants in a group, and allow people to book into as many groups as they want. We would not be able to do this with individual appointments.
We are also looking to make YPC totally paperless. Youth and their families will soon be able to book their appointments online. We will send appointment reminders by text and email. We will track a youth’s progress using online tools so that they do not need to come to the clinic as often. Secure messaging will allow youth and their families to contact a doctor whenever they need to. Prescriptions and refills will be sent electronically to the youth’s pharmacy of choice.
The Youth Psychiatry Clinic is the start of a new way to help young people with some of the most common mental health problems out there. We are not going to solve all the problems in the mental health system, but we will try to make things better a step at a time.
Learn more at mdabc.net