What is it?
Many mental illnesses can first develop at a young age. These can manifest with similar symptoms as seen in adults, such as depression and anxiety, as well as symptoms more commonly associated with youth such as long-term difficulty with attention, hyperactivity or controlling impulses.
Young people typically lack experience and knowledge of mental illness and often feel that their peers and even adults cannot possibly understand what they are going through. As a result, they tend to hide their symptoms. It is also common for symptoms to be discounted as “phases”, “moods” or the natural “behaviours” of youth. However, it is important to acknowledge and openly discuss the signs of mental illness in youth because the sooner young people are treated, the better their chances of recovery. Early intervention and treatment also makes the mental illness less likely to reoccur and if it does, the severity of the reoccurrence may be greatly reduced.
Signs of Mental Illness in Youth
Parents, teachers and friends are usually the first to recognize that an adolescent may be having significant problems with emotions or behaviour. The Canadian Psychiatric Society offers the following signs to look for in your teen, student, brother, sister, classmate, or friend that may indicate that a psychiatric evaluation would be useful.
- Marked drop in school performance or increase in absenteeism
- Excessive use of alcohol and/or drugs
- Marked changes in sleeping and/or eating habits
- Many physical complaints (headaches, stomach aches)
- Aggressive or non-aggressive consistent violations of rights of others: opposition to authority, truancy, thefts, vandalism, etc.
- Withdrawal from friends, family, and regular activities
- Depression shown by sustained, prolonged negative mood and attitude, often accompanied by poor appetite, difficulty sleeping or thoughts of death
- Frequent outbursts of anger and rage
- Low energy level, poor concentration, complaints of boredom
- Loss of enjoyment in what used to be favourite activities
- Unusual neglect of personal appearance
- Intense fear of becoming obese with no relationship to actual body weight
- Intense fear of becoming obese with no relationship to actual body weight
- Uncharacteristic delinquent, thrill seeking or promiscuous behaviour
- Marked personality change or bizarre behaviour.
- Comments about “feeling rotten inside”, wanting to “end things” and soon no longer being a problem for others
The Royal offers intensive and specialized mental health services to youth with early onset major psychiatric disorders and/or complex psychiatric illnesses that are resistant to treatment.
The Royal and the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario (CHEO) have partnered to form the Children and Youth – Specialized Psychiatric and Mental Health Services program (CY-SPMHS). This program delivers specialized psychiatric and mental health services for children and youth under shared regional leadership and using a centralized intake process. Youth mental health specialists from both organizations collaborate to offer the best possible care to young people in our region.
Young people are treated by a team of professionals with expertise in treating a wide range of mental illnesses with sensitivity to meet the unique needs of youth. The team consists of psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers, nurses, child and youth counselors, occupational therapists, addiction counselors as well as special education teachers.
The Youth Psychiatry Program at The Royal emphasizes treating young people with cooperation and respect while offering a full range of mental health services to meet the unique needs of youth in our community.
The program component at The Royal is focused primarily on youth from the ages of 16 to 18. However, there is flexibility in the age range and youth below the age of 16 may be served at The Royal, depending on their best clinical interests. Typically youth under 16 years of age receive their treatment at the CHEO.
The inpatient hospitalization unit provides comprehensive assessment, stabilization and treatment for youth who have a serious psychiatric illness and are unable to function in less supportive environments.
The unit has eight beds and offers intensive programming and support to help youth successfully transition back to their families and communities as quickly as possible.
The partial hospitalization unit provides day services for youth with serious psychiatric disorders who require intensive treatment in order to function in their community.
Because this program is less intrusive than inpatient hospitalization, youth suitable for this unit must be stable enough that they don’t require inpatient hospitalization. However, this unit does have the ability to step-up or step-down interventions as necessary within an individual youth’s treatment plan.
Day Treatment and Rehabilitation Services
The day treatment unit provides comprehensive assessment, clarification of a diagnosis, intensive treatment and psycho-social rehabilitation in a community high school setting in partnership with education for youth with severe and early onset major psychiatric disorders. This unit is supported by both a specialized mental health team and special education teachers.
Outpatient services, organized as general and specialized clinics, offers assessment, consultation and treatment services to youth who can function in the community with less intensive clinical support. These services are delivered in collaboration with community mental health providers.
Outreach services provide the essential link to consultative and collaborative partnerships for youth suffering from major psychiatric disorders who are living in the counties of Renfrew, Prescott-Russell, Stormont, Dundas or Glengarry. The interdisciplinary mental health team works in collaboration with the community in which the youth lives to ensure that specialized psychiatric services are available to him or her.
The Royal’s Youth Psychiatry Program has a strong research component aimed at better understanding and improving treatment for mental illness in the youth population. Youth may be asked to participate in a research project by their psychiatrist. With the youth’s consent, they may be approached by research staff to provide them with information about participating in a study.
To refer a child or youth (under 18 years old) for mental health services at The Royal or CHEO, a physician must complete and fax the referral form to 613.738.4235. Please note if the referral is submitted incomplete it will be returned to the physician for completion.
Emergency services for youth with mental illness are handled by a crisis intervention team operating 24 hours a day, seven days a week through the Emergency Department at the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario (CHEO) located at:
401 Smyth Road
Ottawa, Ontario K1G 6W3
Professionals Involved in the Treatment of Youth
Each member of the treatment team plays a unique and critical role in the care of the youth being served by Youth Psychiatry Program at The Royal. Here are some details about each member of the youth specialty treatment team:
- Psychiatrists are medical doctors who specialize in the assessment, diagnosis and treatment of mental illness. They may also prescribe and maintain any medications that a youth may need to help them manage their illness. The psychiatrist works closely with other members of the team to provide a treatment plan appropriate for each youth in the Program.
- Occupational Therapists (O.T.) provide youth with the opportunity to engage in satisfying life tasks in the areas of self-care, work and community living. An O.T. may work with a youth to identify meaningful goals and to establish a rehabilitation plan. Services include counseling, education, skills teaching, as well as vocational and activity programs to help youth integrate back into their community.
- Nurses provide care from a holistic perspective with the focus on youth- and family-centred care. Nurses work towards developing a therapeutic partnership with each youth and their family in order to help youth return to a higher level of wellness. This is achieved through assessment, education, counseling and advocacy services.
- Psychologists are trained at the Doctoral level (PhD) in assessment, diagnosis, and treatment of mental health problems. Psychological associates do similar work having reached the master’s level of education and training. Psychology staff often conduct specialized testing for diagnostic purposes, as well as provide psychotherapy to individuals, groups and families. Psychologists may also deliver educational/outreach services to communities or groups interested in mental health services.
- Recreation Therapists provide a variety of recreation therapy programs. Leisure education, daily recreation activities and recreation discharge planning are some of the services offered by the recreation therapist for youth in the program. As an out-patient, youth may request assistance in accessing community-based recreation services.
- Addictions Counselors provide education to youth on substance use. Assessment may be provided to determine the impact of substance use on a youth’s mental health, medications and other aspects of a patient’s life. Counseling, skill teaching and strategies for developing a healthy lifestyle are provided. Referrals may be made to longer-term care services in the community.
- Social Workers focus on youth in the context of their family, community and culture. The social worker helps youth access community resources that may include financial assistance and supportive housing. Social workers also provide psychotherapy and rehabilitation counseling to help youth deal with the challenges of living with a mental illness.
- Child and Youth Counselors (CYCs) are trained to work closely with children and youth experiencing a variety of mental health issues. In particular, CYCs are specially trained in behaviour management, activity programming, front-line counseling and group work. CYCs work with youth and their families in the context of the treatment team to bring patients to their optimal level of wellness.