The vast majority of mental health issues emerge before the age of 25. However, while mental illness is highly prevalent in this age group, youth often encounter lengthy delays before reaching the help they need. These delays can often be caused in part by prolonged wait-lists, or having to see multiple contacts within the healthcare system before receiving care. While these delays can have tremendous negative impacts on young people and their families, still little is known about the routes by which young people enter services (‘pathways to care') in youth mental health, and the delays they experience.
My study will examine the pathways to mental health services for youth aged 11-25, and how these impact treatment delays. My research site is ACCESS Dorval-Lachine-Lasalle, one of 12 demonstration sites participating in ACCESS Open Minds, a national Strategy for Patient-Oriented Research (SPOR) initative. My mixed methods project will combine quantitative data (the number and types of contacts made before obtaining services, treatment delays) and qualitative data (interviews with youth and families to better understand their help-seeking experiences). In addition, I will look at what characteristics (e.g, gender, socio-economic status, having a GP) predict these pathways and delays. In recent years, there has been a drive to improve youth mental health service delivery in Canada and abroad.
My project will be able to inform recommendations for policy and for service development in order to reduce the treatment delays currently being experienced by youth. This is significant for ensuring that mental health services are made available to all youth in a timely manner.