Children’s Mental Health

In our lifetime, 1 in 5 people will experience a mental illness and as many as 10% of people over the age of 15 will battle a drug or alcohol dependency. The societal impact is in the billions of dollars. The emotional impact on families and individuals is incalculable.

While Alberta’s current programs and services are helping to address the needs of Albertans struggling with addiction, mental health problems and mental illness, we know that more has to be done.

Learn about the Children’s Mental Health Learning Series.

Mental Health Grants

Recognizing mental health as a contributing root cause that brings children and families to the attention of child intervention services, the Alberta government has dedicated $2 million in funding in 2018/19 to:

  • Increase access to mental health specialists for assessment and brief intervention;
  • Recruit specialists (psychiatric nurse / pharmacist) to give child intervention staff access to expert clinical/medical consultation and help staff better understand the psychiatric treatment plans and use of psychotropic medications;
  • Support a best practice site in Calgary that increases mental health services to children and youth who are receiving child intervention services (learnings from this site are used to enhance services across the province).

A best practice site has been established to enhance mental health supports for children and families who are receiving child intervention services. This site provides increased mental health services to children and youth. The site is located in Calgary and is repurposing beds. The best practice site:

Hull Services, Calgary – provide a program that will assist parents in caring for their child with mental health needs and reduce the need for residential care. The program uses individualized, evidence based therapeutic modalities that result in a comprehensive support plan. The plan focuses on strategies that are transferable in the home environment. In addition to supporting the child within the program, the children received support at home and in school.

Children’s Mental Health Learning Series

The Children’s Mental Health Learning Series provides caregivers, families and professionals with helpful information to increase knowledge and help support children and youth with mental health concerns.

The first 9 sessions focused on early brain development and environmental impacts in the early years. The 2014–2015 sessions emphasized the adolescent brain and mental health and wellness challenges for youth. No further sessions are currently scheduled, but all previous sessions are available online.

In partnership with Alberta Health, the series is aligned with Creating Connections: Alberta’s Addiction and Mental Health Strategy.

Part 1: Videos and resources

Part 2: Videos and resources

  • Session 1: Understanding the Adolescent Brain

    The teenage brain undergoes tremendous changes – and all too often it is a bumpy ride for the teen and the family. In this talk, we will address: What are the developmental changes in the teen brain? What does that mean for their behaviour (i.e., risk taking, mood)? What can we do as parents to help teens develop resiliency and navigate these years?

    View the video

    Resources in this session:
    Frank MacMaster, PhD
    Cuthbertson and Fischer Chair in Paediatric Mental Health
    Departments of Psychiatry and Paediatrics, University of Calgary
    Behavioural Research Unit, Alberta Children's Hospital
    2888 Shaganappi Trail NW, Calgary Alberta T3B  6A8
    Email: fmacmast@ucalgary.ca

  • Session 2: Understanding Youth Mental Illness

    Youth between the ages of 15 to 24 are more likely to suffer from mental illness and/or substance use disorders than any other age group. What puts teens at risk of mental illness? What are the signs to watch out for? What can we do as parents to help teens dealing with mental health issues build resiliency and develop strategies for coping?

    View the video

    Resources in this session:
    Frank MacMaster, PhD
    Cuthbertson and Fischer Chair in Paediatric Mental Health
    Departments of Psychiatry and Paediatrics, University of Calgary
    Behavioural Research Unit, Alberta Children’s Hospital
    2888 Shaganappi Trail NW, Calgary Alberta  T3B 6A8
    Email: fmacmast@ucalgary.ca

  • Session 3: Building Resiliency in Children and Adolescents

    Presenter: Dr. Kelly Dean Schwartz, University of Calgary

    All children and youth have the capacity to develop and demonstrate healthy social and emotional functioning. This session will describe some of the vulnerabilities unique to child and adolescent mental health. The session will recognize the developmental strengths that promote mental health. It will also identify how families, schools, and communities are critical to nurturing these developmental strengths for all children and youth. The session is presented by Dr. Kelly Dean Schwartz from the University of Calgary.

    View the video

    Resources in this session:

    Books

    • Benson, P. L. (2006). All kids are our kids: What communities must do to raise caring and responsible children and adolescents. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
    • Furstenberg, F. F., Cook, T. D., Eccles, J, Elder, G. H., & Sameroff, A. (1999). Managing to make it: Urban families and adolescent success. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.
    • Ungar, M. (2009). The we generation: Raising socially responsible kids. Toronto: McClelland & Stewart.

    Evidence-Based Websites

    Other resources

  • Session 4: Mental Health in Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgendered Children and Adolescents

    Presenter: Dr. Kris Wells, Assistant Professor and Director of Programs & Services, Institute for Sexual Minority Studies and Services, University of Alberta

    Better understanding of sexual and gender identity can help to protect kids, deter and prevent bullying, and promote inclusion. This session discusses: basic LGBTQ terminology and emerging youth trends, current health disparities, effective interventions and recommendations for developing a more just, ethical, and inclusive practice.

    View the Video

    Resources in this session:
    iSMSS Resources (PDF, 66 KB)

  • Session 5: Managing Children and Adolescents with Severe Anxiety Issues: A Toolbox of Strategies

    Presenter: Dr. Kelly Dean Schwartz, University of Calgary, University of Calgary Psychological and Educational Services (UCAPES)

    Explore some of the social and personal factors that contribute to the development of anxiety. Dr. Kelly Dean Schwartz from the University of Calgary discusses some of the practical strategies that we can use to support children and youth with an anxiety disorder.

    View the Video

    Authors referenced in the session:
    Mash, E.J., & Barkley, R.A. (Eds). (2013). Child psychopathology (3rd edition). New York: The Guildford Press.
    Netherton, S.D., Holmes, D., & Walker, C.E. (Eds) (1999). Child and adolescent psychological disorders. New York: Oxford University Press.
    Ungar, Michael (2007) Too Safe for Their Own Good. Toronto: McClelland and Stewart Ltd. ISBN 978-0-7710-8708-8.

    Resources from the session:
    Anxiety BC
    BC Health Treatment Guideline
    BC Health Treatment Guideline Algorithm
    Dr. Stan Kutcher: Teen Mental Health Organization

  • Session 6: Concurrent Disorders Treatment for Children, Youth and their Families

    Presenter: Bina Nair, MD, FRCPC Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist, Concurrent Addiction and Mental Health Program (CASA), Department of Psychiatry, University of Alberta

    Join Dr. Bina Nair in exploring the impact of concurrent disorders on adolescents and their families, assessment and treatment of concurrent disorders and what recovery might look like for those dealing with addictions and mental health disorders.

    View the Video

    24-hour Helpline at 1-866-332-2322 (in Alberta).

  • Session 7: Connected or Disconnected: When media and social media affect adolescent mental health

    Presenter: Dr. Kelly Dean Schwartz, University of Calgary

    Explore the pervasiveness of social media in the lives of adolescents and how social media is changing how youth relate to their social world. Also learn about literature on the positive and negative effects of social media on adolescent mental health.

    View the Video

    Resources from the session:
    Common Sense Media
    Pew Trust Internet Research
    Kaiser Family Foundations
    Teen Mental Health

    Authors referenced in the session:
    Buckingham, D. (Ed.) (2007). MacArthur Foundation series on digital learning: Youth, identify, and digital media.Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
    Ito, M. et al. (2010). Hanging out, messing around, and geeking out: Kids living and learning with new media.Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
    Turkles, S. (2011). Alone together: why we expect more from technology and less from each other. New York: Basic Book.

  • Session 8: Prevention, Intervention and Postvention of Suicide

    Presenter: Dr. Michael Trew, Chief Addiction and Mental Health Officer, Alberta Health

    Find out the basics of suicide statistics, and learn approaches to universal prevention, early intervention and postvention (dealing with the aftermath of a death by suicide) for youth.

    View the video

    Resources:
    Suicide Prevention Resource Center
    Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention Media Guidelines
    Office of the Chief Medical Examiner Annual Review 2009 – Alberta Justice

  • Session 9: Helping Children and Youth Recover from Eating Disorders

    Presenter: Sue Huff – writer, performer, advocate, community builder and recovered politician

    Hear Sue Huff speak about a parent’s journey in helping their child recover from an eating disorder. Topics to be covered include: resources, supports, understanding eating disorders, promoting resiliency of the caregivers, advocating for a parent’s child, reducing shame and/or stigma, and educating others about a child’s illness.

    View the Video

    Resources from the session:
    Eating Disorder Support Network of Alberta
    National Eating Disorder Association (NEDA)
    Career Services Guide. Supporting People Affected by Mental Health Issues (PDF, 4.7 MB)