Medical students travel to Victoria to lobby for improved mental-health services for B.C. youth

    1 of 1 2 of 1

      Today (February 26) the B.C. legislature is hosting a large delegation from UBC to talk about mental health.

      The group consists of 42 young adults who are pursing degrees as medical students, which is fitting because their focus is the mental health of youth, defined as people between the ages of 15 and 24 years old.

      “With the newly established Ministry of Mental Health and Addictions, we wanted to include our voices in the development of the provincial mental health strategy,” said Tanjot Singh, a second-year medical student quoted in a media release. “As medical students, we are passionate about advocating for the needs of patients across our province—this includes advocating for the prevention, treatment and management of child and youth mental health issues.”

      According to the release, the students will be speaking with MLAs from all three parties that comprise the legislature on the specific issues of primary prevention, accessibility and coordination between services, youth-specific and community-based approaches, and strategies to support Indigenous wellness.

      The new Ministry of Mental Health and Addictions was created when the NDP formed a government in July 2017. Its first minister is Judy Darcy, NDP MLA for New Westminster.

      The group of medical students has travelled to Victoria with a policy document that outlines recommendations its members suggest would improve mental health in B.C. Quoting from that document, their recommendations include:

      • expand the universality of primary prevention programs by implementing mental health skills training into the B.C. curriculum for students of all ages, with the goal of fostering resilience and healthy coping strategies among children and youth;
      • adopt a place-based approach to youth mental health services, emphasizing schools and youth centres as early access points for youth mental health;
      • implement and provide mental health services in culturally responsive ways, by working with Indigenous communities, including Inuit, Metis and First Nations peoples to adopt Indigenous frameworks of mental wellness, such as the First Nations Mental Wellness Continuum.

      “We believe a holistic, comprehensive, and full-continuum approach is needed, and our recommendations contribute towards this goal,” the document continues.

      Today’s meetings are part of the fifth annual “B.C. Medical Student Lobby Day,” an initiative where students advocate for a set of agreed-upon policy recommendations designed for implementation within the provincial government.

      The group’s policy document includes a section on youth and addiction, which is timely, because according to the B.C. Coroners Service, there were 1,422 illicit-drug overdose deaths in B.C. last year, up from 993 in 2016 and 518 in 2015. Of those 1,422 deaths in 2017, approximately 19 percent concerned people between the ages of 19 and 29.

      “B.C. lacks a full spectrum of youth substance use services, which should include prevention, assessment, and specialized services,” reads the students’ media release. “Withdrawal management services, long term recovery services, and seamless transitions between hospital to community-based care should be youth-specific.

      “We encourage the B.C. government to conduct a review of legislation regarding the supports and/or interventions that could be enabled and made available for youth in these circumstances.”