FREDERICTON (GNB) – The Office of the Child, Youth and Seniors’ Advocate has released its final report on youth suicide prevention and mental health services, entitled The Best We Have To Offer. This report stems from the minister of health’s request for an independent review following the death of 16-year-old Lexi Daken from the Fredericton region.

The report is the result of research of government documents, public consultations involving more than 250 participants, survey feedback from more than 4,000 respondents, formal submissions from professionals and stakeholders, and advice from a Youth Advisory Committee, a Stakeholder Advisory Council, and a First Nations Advisory Council.

Findings of the review include:

  • A lack of appropriate mental health training in acute youth mental health settings.
  • A lack of adequately resourced specialized services.
  • A lack of standardized suicide risk assessment practices in emergency rooms.
  • A chronic shortage of psychologists and psychiatrists.
  • An overreliance on health system crisis care and lack of prevention services in community settings.
  • A need for better governance and accountability mechanisms for the youth mental health system.

The review has led to 10 interim recommendations and 12 final recommendations. These include:

  • The appointment of a minister for children and youth supported by a secretariat, to ensure that all services for children and youth are integrated and collaborative.
  • Training for all professionals working in child and youth mental health.
  • The creation of a provincial strategy for child and youth rights.
  • The incorporation of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child into New Brunswick law.
  • Development of an action plan for child and youth mental health and suicide prevention, with obligatory progress measurement.
  • Follow-through on calls to action from the First Nations Advisory Committee established during this review.
  • The creation of a youth-led child and youth health rights advisory council.
  • Investments to address the shortage of mental health professionals in the province, and to make mental health services more broadly available.

“The tragic loss of Lexi Daken has led to immense pain for a great many people”, said Child, Youth and Seniors’ Advocate Norman Bossé. “I not only hope, but truly believe, that her passing will be the catalyst for imperative changes in the child and youth mental health system. The memory of Lexi gave power to this report. Her memory must now give power to the people who can make the changes that are so incredibly necessary.”

The report was co-ordinated by deputy advocate Christian Whalen.

“Children and youth have, among many other rights, a right to health and a right to life, survival and maximum development,” said Whalen. “Chronic shortages in expert care and accessible community-based resources and supports deny young people these basic human rights. This report is our roadmap to respecting those rights and offering young people pathways to recovery and hope.”