In close collaboration with ACCESS Open Minds, GBF began working with policy makers and community service providers in selected provinces in 2014 to develop provincial systems of care for youth from 12-25 years of age that focus on prevention and early intervention.   Inspired by the Australian headspace model and the Irish Jigsaw programme, the goal of the project is to integrate core services in an easy to access, youth-friendly format.

The core services offered typically include:

  • primary care,
  • mental health care,
  • addictions counselling,
  • social services, like employment, housing and income support, and
  • peer/family support.

Background

Too often in Canada, our mental healthcare offerings are characterized by “too little, too late”.  Two facts tell the story: only 1 in 4 young people actually get the help they need; and the first point of contact for young people is often the hospital emergency room.  Despite compelling evidence that the age of onset for Mental health and substance use (MHSU) disorders is between 12 and 24 years, and that nearly 75% of these conditions begin by the age of 24, children and youth typically struggle to access MHSU services.

Incident Years Lost to Disability per 100,000 (Victoria 1996)

Incident Years Lost to Disability per 100,000. “Mental illness is the disease of youth.” (Victoria 1996)

There is mounting evidence that early, evidence-based intervention leads to significantly better long-term outcomes (Perou et al., 2013).  The economic costs of the status quo, which is often marked by poorly-coordinated services and barriers to access, are large.  Emergency rooms are a costly means of providing mental health services, and some of the highest users of medical, justice, and social services are people suffering from untreated mental health and substance use issues.

There are interventions that work to prevent emerging issues from evolving into disabling and expensive-to-manage mental health disorders. Young people whose mental health needs are recognized, function better socially, perform better in school and are more likely to develop into well-adjusted and productive adults than those whose needs are unmet.

Several countries have implemented national programs to provide services for youth, with a focus on prevention and early intervention, including the Australian headspace and Irish Jigsaw services.  The following provide some background information on these initiatives:

In Canada, there are a number of providers offering innovative services for youth.  One example is Dr. Steve Mathias’ Granville Street Youth Clinic which is linked to St. Paul’s Hospital in downtown Vancouver.


Pat McGorry

Dr. Patrick McGorry:  “We need a new architecture and culture of care for young people with emerging
mental health problems.”


  • Perou, R., Bitsko, R.H., Blumberg, S.J., Pastor, P., Ghandour, R.M., Gfroerer, J.C….Huang, L.N. (2013). Mental Health Surveillance Among Children – United States, 2005–2011. Morbidity & Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR), 62(02),1-35.
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