[#WHD2017 Blog Series] Inspiring Innovations: Pathway through Care

This blog is part of our series celebrating World Health Day, this year themed “Depression: Let's Talk.” Hear what our community of innovators has to say about the ideas behind their Inspiring Innovations, and how they address depression across the globe.

Here, the team at TeenMentalHealth.Org discusses their Pathway through Care model - an approach to improving the lives of youth by linking education and health systems.

Tell us about your country’s context and the circumstances that inspired your innovation.

Approximately 70% of mental illnesses can be diagnosed before age 25, which makes adolescence a critical time for mental health promotion, prevention, early identification, and effective treatment of mental disorders. Since many youth attend school, it is clear that provision of effective mental health interventions must include schools.

Bringing health care to schools is a frugal innovation that can address both health and mental health needs of young people, in settings that they regularly attend, in a non-stigmatizing manner. Schools are the ideal location for addressing mental health literacy for students and teachers and also for delivery of mental health care to students: health for all just down the hall.  We have created a simple model that builds on existing system strengths, enhances existing expertise, and when implemented can improve outcomes for both students and teachers. It does not require expensive buildings or the development of new services. It builds on what already exists, and makes what is there both better and effective.

What aspect of your project are you most excited about? How is the project innovative or unique?

The Pathway through Care model provides a simple, innovative method for integrating education and healthcare with demonstrated positive outcomes for students, teachers, and others. It builds on and improves existing institutional structures, provides teachers and health care workers with new skills that they can integrate into their usual professional lives, and is easily adapted to local circumstances. It works in diverse settings – geographic, cultural and economic. It addresses all aspects of the mental health journey, from: awareness; to literacy; to early identification; to triage and support, and to rapid access to effective care in the community. 

Since TeenMentalHealth.Org’s inception ten years ago, all of our work has been informed by this model and our mission statement: “Giving you the knowledge, understanding and tools to improve mental health care for young people”. It demonstrates that everything that we do is to help those whose professional and personal passion is to improve mental health outcomes for young people and their families. That is why all of our innovative materials and programs are available free of charge on our website: www.teenmentalhealth.org and why we work in so many different countries.   

Have you noticed an impact ‘on the ground’? What is the best feedback you have received (from service users, team members, or otherwise)?

Since the launch of our Pathway Through Care video, it has been viewed almost 10,000 times and has been very well received both online and through traditional media. Our work is done and our resources are used across Canada, in every Province and Territory. Globally, we have collaborations and projects with partners in over a dozen countries and we are constantly researching and evaluating what we do – to make it better. Our work has impacted mental health policy, education, media, health care delivery, and suicide prevention in communities, schools, health centres, universities, colleges, and at senior policy tables. We are regularly featured in the media for our contributions, nationally and internationally as well.

What’s next?

We are currently exploring new opportunities to allow us to widen our work in Eastern Europe, Asia, North America, Latin America, and Sub-Saharan Africa.We continue to work across Canada and have almost completed the first national pre-service teacher mental health literacy resource that will be used to train new educators to help better prepare them for the future careers.

What is the one message about depression you want people to take away from your innovation?

To improve youth mental health outcomes, it is essential to concurrently innovate and integrate across both education and health systems, and to do so in a manner that is frugal, sustainable, system enhancing, effective, and globally applicable.

To read more about the Innovation, visit the case study page.

To see the other blogs in this series, visit our [#WHD2017 Blog Series].

North America
Children and adolescents
Prevention and promotion
Detection and diagnosis
Treatment, care and rehabilitation
Training, education and capacity building
Depression/anxiety/stress-related disorders
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