A new space is coming to help the thousands of teens and children in Simcoe County living with mental illness.

“We now know that 75 per cent of mental health disorders begin before the age of 25. We also know those people don't have access to care,” says Dr. Roger McIntyre.

In Simcoe County and Muskoka, about 20,000 kids and teens have some form of mental illness, says McIntyre. He is now spearheading a new program at Royal Victoria Regional Health Centre in Barrie to get those young people the help they need.

“Like all areas of chronic disease if we wait for too long the chances of the best outcome are reduced,” he says.

Currently, there is no hospital in Simcoe County or Muskoka that has a mental health department specifically for young people. Southlake Regional Health Centre in Newmarket has nine beds for kids dealing with mental health issues and eating disorders. The new mental health centre at RVH will also have nine beds. 

Right now kids needing this help might not be able to get the treatment they need close to home and McIntyre says it's important for the program to be available here.

“A child isn't just a small adult, it isn't appropriate to just cut and paste an adult program and think it is personalized,” he says.

The plan is to create a brand new space inside RVH that focuses solely on helping young people who are struggling with any sort of mental health illness: things like mood disorders, anxiety, psychotic episodes, addiction, eating disorders, and autism.

Eric Dean, the CEO of the RVH Foundation says the centre will “help kids understand their symptoms help their family understand the diagnosis and then be able to provide a whole range of treatments.”

He says the new centre is long overdue.

“We have more and more families coming forward and saying, ‘I understand the need, just last year my daughter or granddaughter was in and we recognize the lack of services,’” Dean says.

The hospital is looking to raise $3 million for the new centre. In the meantime the plan is to set up programs in existing areas of the hospital until they have their own space.