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B.C. unveils new service for kids with anxiety

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Next month, parents with children age three to 12 with anxiety will have a new free online and telephone resource based out of newly created space in downtown Victoria, B.C. Minister of Mental Health and Addictions Judy Darcy announced Friday (March 29).

She announced the program from the new office space on View Street that will house as many as 20 coaches — 14 coaches have been hired and are completing orientation and training — and start service April 29. Once up and running, the program is expected to serve 2,400 families each year.

The anxiety program is a new addition under the existing Confident Parents: Thriving Kids service, designed to reduce the effects of anxiety on a child and developed locally by the Canadian Mental Health Association — B.C. Division in partnership with B.C. psychologists who specialize in child and youth mental health, according to the Mental Health and Addictions Ministry.

Anxiety conditions are characterized by apprehension, fear, bodily symptoms and avoidance behaviour that impairs normal functioning, said the ministry.

While 50 to 70 per cent of mental illnesses show up before the age of 18, only about one in four kids and teens in Canada who need mental-health treatment get it, according to the province.

“For parents, knowing how to manage their child’s anxious behaviour can become a challenge,” Darcy said in a statement. “With today’s investment, parents now have somewhere to turn for the support they need.”

About four per cent of children and youth age four through 17 would meet diagnostic criteria for an anxiety disorder at any given time. However, the percentage of children with mild to moderate anxiety conditions is understood to be much higher, according to the Ministry of Mental Health and Addictions.

The free intervention program for parents and caregivers in B.C. whose children have anxiety that affects their daily happiness includes educational videos and weekly telephone coaching sessions

Federal Health Minister Ginette Petitpas Taylor said in a statement that improving access to home and community care and mental-health and addiction services is one of the ways in which collaboration between the governments of Canada and B.C. is making lives better for B.C. residents.

To meet the needs of Indigenous families, CMHA B.C. is working with Indigenous Peoples and organizations to develop a culturally sensitive and appropriate model for this program, which is expected to launch in the fall.

The anxiety program is meant to build on a 2015 behaviour program that has served more than 3,200 families. It gives parents and caregivers access to a series of six to 14 weekly telephone-coaching sessions using exercises and workbooks to prevent, reduce and reverse the development of mild to moderate behaviour difficulties, including aggression, attention deficit, or unco-operative or disruptive behaviour, according to the Mental Health and Addictions Ministry.

B.C. Minister of Children and Family Development Katrine Conroy said the government is providing annual funding for the program rather than the uncertain year-to-year funding it had before.

Parents can access both programs at flexible times, including evenings and weekends.

Access requires a referral from general practitioners, pediatricians or Ministry of Children and Family Development community child and youth mental-health teams.

The province says the total $5.75-million investment for the anxiety program and $2.75 million for the behaviour program is part of a five-year, $656-million B.C.-Canada bilateral agreement announced in September 2018, which includes incremental investments to expand home and community care, and mental-health and addiction services.

— Cindy E. Harnett, Times Colonist

To access these resources:

Watch a video about the Confident Parents: Thriving Kids Programs:

Get information about Confident Parents: Thriving Kids at:


Child and youth mental health case trends and data: