Advocate hopeful after Ottawa announces $500M for youth mental health

A cash boost has been promised for young people’s well-being in the government of Canada’s pocketbook.

On Tuesday morning, the federal government announced that Canada’s 2024 budget will propose $500 million for a new Youth Mental Health Fund.

It said the money will go toward local health organizations to better equip them to provide mental health services, or refer youth to other organizations for help.

“Right away I get hopeful and excited when we’re talking about that amount of money for youth, for mental health,” said Mitch Bourbonniere, a community outreach worker in Winnipeg.

“It’ll be interesting (to see) how that’s distributed across Canada, across the provinces and territories, how much will get located to Winnipeg … and to northern Manitoba,” he said.

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He is hopeful the funds will be directed toward the front lines, not tangled in administration.

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“We need uncles and aunties. We need people working with families. We need people building capacity with communities and families and neighbourhoods so that we all look after the kids together,” he said, adding that front-line investments would allow more kids to be reached.

Bourbonniere said there is a huge need for at-risk youth services in every Manitoba community, across all demographics.

“There are kids where there has been family breakdown, where kids are raising themselves, even helping to raise their own siblings. Feeling alone. Feeling isolated. Depressed. Suicidal. Acting inwards. Acting outwards. These are all children and youth that I worry about,” he said.

In recent months, Winnipeg’s youth system has been shuffled into the spotlight after an uptick in young people committing crimes. Advocates say more community involvement is needed.

Bourbonniere agrees, and said he hopes to see this priority folded into funding.

“I would like to see alternative therapies that are offered in the evening, on weekends that can be outside the office,” he said, adding that at-risk kids need “a sense of purpose, belonging, identity, and empowerment,” and should be able to find that in their community.

Click to play video: 'Mental health resources for youth, families in Winnipeg'

Mental health resources for youth, families in Winnipeg

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