Date Published: Thursday, August 23, 2012
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One in 10 Ottawa teens has had suicidal thoughts in the past year, says Ottawa Public Health, which has bumped up efforts to fill gaps in its programming.
“We were certainly concerned that one in 10 youth have had suicidal ideation,” said Benjamin Leikin, a mental health project officer with Ottawa Public Health. “One suicide is a tragedy. So that was a concern for us.”
The numbers were randomly sampled from 1,000 local youth who responded anonymously to the 2011 Ontario Student Drug Use and Health Survey.
“It gives us a real snapshot of what grade seven-12 students are really feeling,” Leikin said.
In the coming year, the city is making special efforts to reach out to grade seven and eight students, he said. “The mental health data takes a turn downward in those high school years, so early preparation is key.”
The city is doubling the amount of schools on board with public nurses delivering a special five-session mental health program that teaches youth about mental health, coping skills and building resiliency. The program was in 12 Ottawa schools last year and the city is working to launch it in 20 or more for the coming school year.
A new series of short online videos set for release this fall, in partnership with Ottawa’s Youth Services Bureau, will also alert parents to signs of mental health issues to look for in children and how to build communication in the home.
“We’re exploring other options to help parents, too,” said Leikin, including an early screening program in local daycare centres for kids aged 18 months to four years old.
“Across the province we’ve been an example to other cities,” Leikin said of the city’s programs. “We’re working hard on this. It isn’t just something we’re doing once and then forgetting about.”
(Please note that CMHO staff does not reply to comments that are posted on news stories.)