Education initiative to unify mental-health help for kids

Starting in February, the Faculty of Education will begin Phase One of the Single Ceiling initiative, a project designed to put all child-focused mental-health systems under one roof, making it easier for area children to get the help they require.

Organizers hope the initiative ends the practice of moving children from expert to expert.

It’s not rare that children get referred to “10, 11 or even more places” until they find the right help, said Vicki Schwean, dean of the Faculty of Education. “Putting that into the context of poverty, for example, access for the family becomes significantly reduced. Eventually, people just drop out of the system.

“By default, schools have to provide treatment for the children, but they are not well equipped to do so.”

Single Ceiling will provide mental-health support, prevention and intervention services for children between the ages of 4 and 12. Children can be assessed by professionals and, eventually, treated all at one location.

“If you have cancer, you go through many types of testing before intervention. With kids and mental health, you need to do the same thing,” Schwean said.

Emphasis has been placed on tailoring treatment to the individual child – based on several variables such as psychological risk factors, biological risk and environmental factors – as not all cases can be treated equally.

Single Ceiling will also create an environment for researchers to gain addition understanding into children’s mental health. Statistics show 15-20 per cent of children deal with mental illness; only one in five get the proper treatment.

The initiative will be housed in the Child & Youth Network’s family centre, located in London’s Argyle community.

Although starting in one community, Schwean looks to extend the idea across the city.

“The hope is that, by involving many others in the process, they will take it to their own communities,” she said.

To make Single Ceiling a reality, the Faculty of Education partnered with London community supporters including the Child & Youth Network, Thames Valley District School Board and Merrymount Children’s Centre. The Faculty of Education hopes to raise $3 million to support the initiative.

Phase One runs February to September.