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Kamloops youth psychiatry unit helps families deal with mental illness, one child at a time

Raj Chahal and Amanda Lavigne stand next to some of the artwork created by patients in the pediatric psychiatry unit at Royal Inland Hospital
December 02, 2015 - 8:15 PM

KAMLOOPS - A space dedicated to supporting children and their familes while they deal with mental health crisis has been providing better support since it was revamped a year ago, according to administrators at Royal Inland Hospital.

"We have space that’s more welcoming for kids. There’s more room for confidentiality, more room to move around and have space for themselves,” Raj Chahal, team leader for child psychiatry, says. "Staff has found it’s more therapeautic in that we can have more one to ones when there’s two or three youth in here instead of always having to do a group intervention."

With its renovation, the unit received three separate bedrooms for young patients between the ages of six and 17. In this last year, Chahal says most of the 115 admissions were for kids in the young teens — some dealing with an ongoing mental illness, others a mental crisis.

Both Chahal and the manager of mental health services, Amanda Lavigne, say while there’s been a change in the environment, the centre hopes to continue building resources through relationships with key mental health players in the city.

“We’re looking at how to integrate our services so it’s a better flow for the children and families while they go through this,” Chahal says. “We’re trying to work more as one kind of team while we’re here in town."

One way to do that is through the community Parkview child and adolescent mental health program, which provides children and teens treatment, assessment and social work service as needed. There’s also open lines of communication with schools, general practitioners, Ministry of Children and Families and Secwepemc child services.

Chahal says most patients stay between one to two days before they are sent back home with a comprehensive care plan. If a patient still requires hospitalization, they may be moved to the Adolescent Psychiatry Unit in Kelowna. But Chahal says the impetus of the Kamloops unit is to deal with the crisis before guiding the patient back into the community.

“With our Parkview program they really work with effectively working and discharging kids and getting them back into their homes and supported in the community,” Chahal says.

While helping the child dealing with mental illness is paramount, there are protocols in place to help the family learn more about a prognosis and how members can help after discharge.

“We follow (the patient) until we feel like they’re stabilized. In between those followups family members can call — they have an open file with us. We try to guide them instead of telling them what to do,” Chahal says.

Early assessment of a mental illness can help prepare patients for a reoccurance later on in life. Chahal says she’s seen patients mature into adulthood and notes each case is different.

"You run into adults and they have their own kids and they were somebody that we worked with when they were teenagers. They’re doing quite well,” she says. "But then we have stories where we will see them on the adult ward. But I feel like we’ve had a benefit in that the parents are more aware, they’ve been educated. They’re not starting fresh as an adult. There’s that understanding and support since they’ve been teenagers."

The unit admits patients from the Thompson-Cariboo region, with boundaries extending to Williams Lake, Chase and Clearwater. Lavigne says 68 per cent of clients are from the Kamloops area. Occupancy of the unit can fluctuate, but administrators say there hasn’t been a patient overflow yet.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Glynn Brothen at gbrothen@infonews.ca, or call 250-319-7494. To contact the editor, email mjones@infonews.ca or call 250-718-2724.

-An earlier version of this story referred to the Adolescent Psychiatry Unit as the Acute Psychiatry Unit. This story was corrected at 1:00 p.m., Dec. 4, 2015 to reflect the change. 

News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2015
InfoTel News Ltd

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