Saving our youth
Kutcher’s advice on youth mental health services released
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.
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.