Approximately 70% of mental illnesses can be diagnosed before age 25, which makes adolescence a critical time for mental health promotion, and the prevention, early identification, and effective treatment of mental disorders. Canadian teenagers spend a great deal of time in school each week, which makes schools an ideal location for recognizing and addressing the mental health needs of youth. More young people can be reached through schools than in any other method of service delivery.
At present, schools and healthcare exist as separate systems, making it difficult to coordinate needed enhancements in mental health literacy and provide better access to effective care for young people. The Pathway Through Care model proposes a simple, innovative method for integrating education and healthcare opportunities that would result in youth, teachers, families, student service providers, primary care providers, and even mental health professionals becoming more mental health literate while concurrently establishing better access to effective mental health care for those youth who need it.
Many teenagers with mental health care needs are falling through the cracks of existing systems and waiting too long for treatment. It’s essential we find new ways of identifying these youth and helping them rapidly access effective treatment early. It is also essential that we not create demand for mental health care for young people who do not need it. The Pathway Through Care model presents an evidence-based method for accomplishing this goal by helping increase the mental health literacy and help-seeking ability of teenagers and their teachers as well as linking healthcare systems to schools.