The tragic end of the Vancouver Island search for a missing teenager has once again sparked calls for adolescent access to mental health services.
Andre Courtmarche was found dead in Goldstream Provincial Park on Saturday and completed a week-long search for the 16-year-old.
Courtmarche had left his family home in Langford on New Years Day after arguing with his parents over video games.
The teenager, who struggled with depression for two years, died of suicide.
His parents said they experienced delays in helping their son with his mental health. In a gruesome twist of fate, the family received a phone call while searching for their son to say he was finally admitted to a psychiatrist appointment.
On Wednesday, the BC child and youth representative announced to Global News that the province’s already “totally inadequate” mental health system has been worsened by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It’s the kind of case we hear about too often and it breaks my heart,” said Jennifer Charlesworth.
Charlelsworth recently co-authored a report on the pandemic’s impact on adolescent mental health.
She says the number of teens facing mental health problems that could affect their daily lives has increased fivefold.
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Charlesworth said ahead of the pandemic the provincial mental health services were not up to the task.
“Imagine we had a system that already dealt with major waiting lists and now we have a pandemic and we have the inability to provide one-on-one or personal care for many practitioners, which is exactly what many young people need move to a virtual system, especially if you don’t have technology. That is very problematic. “
Charlesworth said as of May 2020 it existed as early as 2,500 BC. Youngsters on waiting lists for mental health services.
The average waiting time was around two months, but although there is less risk in some cases, the waiting time can be much longer.
Indigenous and racialized youth are disproportionately affected, she said, noting that up to 30 percent of indigenous youth do not have access to the technology to access virtual services.
Along with waiting lists, Charlesworth said some services are inaccessible in smaller or remote communities, and she said the province was suffering from a shortage of professionals in some key areas as well.
She urges the province to allocate more resources to prevent future cases like Courtmarche’s.
“Basically, it is important to recognize that we have a significant problem and without investing now, and to foresee that we will have to continue investing for the foreseeable future, then we will continue to have significant tragedies and quality of life lost for many of our young people,” said she.
A GoFundMe campaign has since been set up to support the von Courtmache family in grief.
If you or someone you know is in crisis and needs help, resources are available. In an emergency, please call 911 for immediate assistance.
The Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention, Depression, Child Aid at 1-800-668-6868 and Trans Lifeline 1-877-330-6366 are all ways to get help if you or someone you know has it mental health problems.