Sav­ing our youth

Kutcher’s ad­vice on youth men­tal health ser­vices re­leased

Cape Breton Post - - Front Page - BY NANCY KING

The province will pro­vide the Cape Bre­ton-Vic­to­ria Re­gional School Board with an ad­di­tional $192,000 to hire two more guid­ance coun­sel­lors and a so­cial worker, based on the find­ings of a re­view of ado­les­cent men­tal health ser­vices.

The Mc­Neil gov­ern­ment hired Dr. Stan Kutcher in June to re­view the sit­u­a­tion in Cape Bre­ton af­ter three youths in the re­gion died by sui­cide within six months. Kutcher was tasked with iden­ti­fy­ing gaps in men­tal health sup­port for young peo­ple in Cape Bre­ton and iden­ti­fy­ing ways to bridge those gaps through ex­ist­ing and new ini­tia­tives. His rec­om­men­da­tions were re­leased Wed­nes­day.

“I had nu­mer­ous con­ver­sa­tions with the school board about ways that they could ad­dress some of the is­sues that they’re fac­ing, I think as a re­sult of those dis­cus­sions

they reached out to see whether there would be more re­sources avail­able,” Kutcher said.

The province iden­ti­fied two other of Kutcher’s rec­om­men­da­tions — ad­di­tional sup­port for the CaperBase out­reach ser­vice and in­creas­ing staff for a provincewide men­tal health cri­sis line — that it would act on quickly but didn’t at­tach dol­lar fig­ures to them.

“The specifics of what that sup­port may look like just means we need to sit down and have the con­ver­sa­tions as to where they think the sup­ports them­selves would be best di­rected,” Health Min­is­ter Randy Delorey said in an in­ter­view.

Other ad­vice from Kutcher is more provincewide in scope and will take more time, he added.

“The other ones if you look at them are re­ally about delv­ing into pol­icy, it re­quires more re­search, pulling to­gether some ev­i­dence and putting to­gether some sup­port ma­te­ri­als for the ed­u­ca­tion en­vi­ron­ment to sup­port our youth, a re­view of our sui­cide preven­tion frame­work,” Delorey said.

Kutcher said when he was in Cape Bre­ton the peo­ple he spoke with praised the work

cur­rently be­ing done by CaperBase, par­tic­u­larly with youth at risk.

“This is an or­ga­ni­za­tion that with en­hanced re­sources can do a bet­ter job in reach­ing larger num­bers of young peo­ple,” he said.

Delorey said the province ac­cepted all of Kutcher’s rec­om­men­da­tions and will work to­ward im­ple­ment­ing them.

Few specifics were im­me­di­ately avail­able on how much the mea­sures will cost and when and how they will be tack­led.

Some of the is­sues will be tied in to the com­mis­sion on in­clu­sive ed­u­ca­tion and fi­nal rec­om­men­da­tions from it are due in March.

While the re­view was prompted by in­ci­dents that

took place in Cape Bre­ton and Kutcher spent three days on the is­land meet­ing with groups and in­di­vid­u­als, Tues­day’s an­nounce­ment took place in Hal­i­fax. Delorey and Kutcher were made avail­able to the Cape Bre­ton Post for an in­ter­view just prior to the news con­fer­ence an­nounc­ing the rec­om­men­da­tions. Mem­bers of the me­dia from out­side of the Hal­i­fax area were able to par­tic­i­pate in the news con­fer­ence by con­fer­ence call.

“That’s just about sched­ul­ing and tim­ing and we have the rec­om­men­da­tions from Dr. Kutcher, it’s im­por­tant to get the in­for­ma­tion out to the pub­lic and all Nova Sco­tians, in­clud­ing those in Cape Bre­ton. I don’t think the lo­ca­tion of the re­lease is as im­por­tant as get­ting the in­for­ma­tion out there and the ac­tions that we are go­ing to be tak­ing,” Delorey told The Post.

The doc­u­ment list­ing Kutcher’s rec­om­men­da­tions posted on the pro­vin­cial gov­ern­ment web­site is dated July 17.

An­other rec­om­men­da­tion called for the provincewide men­tal health cri­sis line to add staff to re­spond to higher num­bers of calls.

Delorey said the Nova Sco­tia Health Author­ity is al­ready look­ing to en­hance its phone sys­tem and has started the process of hir­ing two more staff mem­bers.

Kutcher said it’s im­por­tant not to suc­cumb to the temp­ta­tion to at­tribute all cases to bul­ly­ing, although it may be a fac­tor.

“I think that there is a ten­dency to as­sume that bul­ly­ing causes every sin­gle prob­lem that young peo­ple have, which is just not true,” he said. “We have to be very care­ful in how we dif­fer­en­ti­ate the nor­ma­tive con­flict that can oc­cur amongst young peo­ple from bul­ly­ing and also how to dif­fer­en­ti­ate bul­ly­ing from cy­ber­bul­ly­ing, be­cause they’re not the same thing.”

Kutcher said he saw a grow­ing recog­ni­tion that the two are dif­fer­ent and may re­quire dif­fer­ent ap­proaches.

Ed­u­ca­tion Min­is­ter Zach Churchill said in deal­ing with Kutcher’s rec­om­men­da­tion to de­velop a pro­vin­cial pol­icy on re­spon­si­ble use of per­sonal com­mu­ni­ca­tion de­vices by stu­dents, the gov­ern­ment will look at the cur­rent pol­icy which ap­plies to school net­works and see it ex­pand to all cel­lu­lar net­works.

Kutcher said he was im­pressed by the con­cern showed by mem­bers of the com­mu­nity, of­fi­cials from the school board and men­tal health ser­vices, gov­ern­ment and how will­ing ev­ery­one was to come to­gether to take on the issue, not to point fingers.

While the process was prompted by a se­ries of in­ci­dents in Cape Bre­ton, Delorey said many of the rec­om­men­da­tions re­late to provincewide ini­tia­tives.

In a news re­lease, NDP Health critic Tammy Martin said that by re­leas­ing the re­port in Hal­i­fax, par­ents, health pro­fes­sion­als, youth and other stake­hold­ers in Cape Bre­ton were un­able to at­tend.

“Will Min­is­ter Churchill and Min­is­ter Delorey come to Cape Bre­ton and hold a pub­lic meet­ing to ex­plain this re­port and the plan of action gov­ern­ment will take?” Martin said in the re­lease.

“That’s the only way there will be any ac­count­abil­ity to the peo­ple of Cape Bre­ton.”

Kutcher’s rec­om­men­da­tions can be found un­der re­ports at no­vas­co­tia.ca/dhw.

CP PHOTO

Dr. Stan­ley Kutcher, a renowned ex­pert in the area of ado­les­cent men­tal health, ad­dresses a news con­fer­ence in Hal­i­fax on Wed­nes­day. Kutcher has pre­sented his rec­om­men­da­tions to the pro­vin­cial gov­ern­ment on youth men­tal health in Cape Bre­ton fol­low­ing sev­eral teen sui­cides.

Kutcher

Churchill

Martin

Delorey

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