B.C. Representative for Children and Youth Jennifer Charlesworth (Black Press files)

B.C. Representative for Children and Youth Jennifer Charlesworth (Black Press files)

B.C. watchdog says mentally ill children and youth retraumatized in hospital

The number of children held under the Mental Health Act has increased an alarming 162 per cent in past decade

British Columbia’s representative for children and youth says she has heard harrowing stories from those who were involuntarily hospitalized for a mental illness without access to legal advice.

Jennifer Charlesworth has released a report with input from youth who say they were restrained, medicated and secluded against their will.

Charlesworth is calling on the B.C. government to amend the Mental Health Act to allow youth to have access to a legal advocate while they’re in care.

She says that while the Health Ministry believes Indigenous youth are overrepresented when it comes to being detained in hospital, it lacks data on how many youth are being affected.

Charlesworth says that’s troubling because young people are being retraumatized when what they need is care that is culturally appropriate.

ALSO READ: Advocates urge B.C. to withdraw proposed bill allowing youth to be held after overdoses

She says over a decade, the number of children held under the Mental Health Act has increased an alarming 162 per cent, bringing into question the voluntary system of care and treatment.

The province paused legislation last July to amend the act after Charlesworth and some First Nations groups said youth worried about being detained would fear asking for help.

The Canadian Press

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