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Mental Health and Addictions Nurses

Supporting children and youth in our communities

Seventy per cent of mental health issues and illnesses begin in childhood or adolescence. Moreover, studies suggest that between 15 and 21 percent of Ontario's children and youth have at least one mental health disorder. This means that at least one in five children or young adults is struggling with a mental health challenge. That's about 500,000 kids.

""Schools are at the forefront of dealing with mental health and addictions issues experienced by children and youth. In order to support students who may be struggling in these areas, the CCACs are partnering with school boards to identify students in need of care, and provide supports for the schools these children and youth attend.

The services offered by these nurses complement the programs already provided through schools and community-based mental health and addiction organizations.

Students with mental health and addiction issues cared for at home and in their communities are starting to benefit from the early, specialized attention provided by these specialized nurses.


Key Facts about the Mental Health and Addictions (MHAN) initiative

  • The initiative is funded by the Ministry of Health and Long-term Care (MOHLTC).
  • The initiative supports children and youth in schools who may have mild to complex mental health and/or substance abuse issues.
  • The initiative supports students transitioning back to school from the hospital or other care setting.


What do CCAC MHAN nurses do?

Our unrelenting focus is on the success of students with mental health or addiction issues to thrive at school, remain in school or successfully transition back to school. Our nurses collaborate with school boards, teachers and community-based organizations to support students in their early struggles with mental health and addiction""s. 

School boards know their students best. CCAC nurses partner with school boards to recognize and respond to student mental health and addictions issues. In addition, CCAC Nurse Leaders support community nurses, support the development of school board strategies, participate in health care system planning, and collaborate with community health partners to ensure consistent support for children and youth across the province.




Elena Maris, one of Central CCAC's mental health and addictions nurses says making life better is also at the heart of her work with students and families.

"It's very important for us to be located in the high schools. Admission to the hospital is so hard on students' lives. They will feel better overall with community support," says Elena. "Early intervention is also critical. When you act fast and give the help early, the outcome is always more positive."

A registered nurse with education in counselling and psychology, and more than 20 years working in acute mental health settings, Elena connects students and families to community resources and offers input and advice to school boards on strategies to address student mental health.

She recently helped one young man whose academics were being severely impacted by his struggles with anxiety. "This brilliant student was repeating Grade 11 after missing too much school, and he had been lying on the couch for three months. His mother was frustrated. He was frustrated," says Elena. "Turns out, he wasn't feeling anxiety, but depression. It was extremely debilitating."

After completing an out-patient program six months earlier, the student had been prescribed and was taking Prozac. Since that time, there had been no follow-up to assess for side-effects.

Working with the student and his mother, Elena arranged for the boy to see his doctor to discuss reducing the medication. Together they established a motivation system that rewards him for positive steps, including getting out of the house, attending school, seeing friends and restarting guitar lessons.

Thanks to Elena's efforts, the student is attending some classes at school already with plans to add to his schedule as he feels stronger and more in control. Asked about the differ­ence she's made, Elena says she is happy this young man is getting the support he needs to work towards the milestones others his age are achieving.

"He's a teenager. This gives him a chance to finish high school. To see his friends and have a more full life. It's a big step forward", states Elena.​