One in five people experience mental illness during their lifetime—70 per cent of these occur during childhood and adolescence. Many of our community’s children and youth also have other health challenges in addition to mental illness.
A common one is type 2 diabetes (T2D), usually acquired through childhood obesity. Forty per cent of Ontario’s boys and 30 per cent of girls are overweight or obese. Obesity and T2D often lead to mental illness because of bullying, low self-esteem, and depressive conditions.
Caring for Our Kids
At Trillium Health Partners we believe that early investment in children’s health can greatly improve long-term health and wellness. That’s why we’re creating new programs and initiatives for children and young people who have diabetes and related mental health challenges.
“A growing number of children with diabetes struggle with anxiety, depression, and even bullying,” says Dr. Ian Zenlea, Paediatric Endocrinologist and Clinician Scientist at Trillium Health Partners. “These can have a very real effect on kids’ lifestyle, which then affects their long-term and overall physical health,” he continues.
The Child and Youth Project—Medical Psychiatry Alliance
Dr. Zenlea is now heading up a new pilot research project, the Child and Youth Project, to support youth with diabetes and mental illness. The project will be overseen by the Medical Psychiatry Alliance (MPA), an innovative partnership between Trillium Health Partners, CAMH, the hospital for Sick Children, and the University of Toronto that is bringing transformational change to mental health care in Ontario.
New Resources for Our Young People
There are limited resources to identify and assist young patients with diabetes and mental wellness challenges. The Child and Youth Project has four phases of intervention—screening and monitoring, identifying high-risk patients, diagnostic assessments, and collaborative treatment—and is being piloted at the Paediatrics Diabetes Clinic at our Mississauga Hospital site.
Upon entry, patients are given a Mind Youth Questionnaire (MY-Q) to establish emotional wellbeing and quality of life through an examination of a young person’s school and home life, social life, and moods.
Team members then review the data and link young people to the mental health service they require most, like a psychiatrist’s consultation in our community. The project also partners with SickKids Hospital’s TeleLink Mental Health Program for video conferencing with a psychiatrist.
Although only in its pilot phase, the program is envisioned to become the model for diabetes clinics for youth across Ontario, and beyond.
>> Please support youth in your community by making a donation to the Children’s Health program at Trillium Health Partners.