Ever since a new pilot project began at L.V. Rogers high school a few weeks ago, more students have been visiting the doctor.
The project came from a meeting between mental health and addictions practitioners where it was identified that teenagers weren’t getting access to the care they needed.
“We often think of the homeless and elderly as being underserviced, but it’s under recognized that youth are not accessing medical services,” said Dr. Joel Kailia, the Nelson medical doctor involved in the project.
Every Thursday since the project began, Kailia has been setting up a satellite medical clinic at LVR where students can have their physical, emotional and mental issues looked after.
“We’ve had two clinics so far and they’ve been full,” said Kailia, adding that it’s been a mixed bag of issues that the teens are approaching him about.
Karl Machado, counselor at LVR, said that this project is helping students get the care they need, but otherwise wouldn’t.
“They may know they need to go see a doctor, but it’s really hard to get up and go there,” said Machado. “As adults we have a reluctance to doing that and kids do as well… It’s easier for them to step out of class and go see him, it decreases the fear and it decreases the logistics of going to see a medical doctor.”
Kailia said kids can sometimes be reluctant to go to their family doctors because they might have the incorrect perception that their family doctor is going to tell their parents why they’re there.
As a program that is completely separate from the school, all the information shared at the clinic is completely confidential.
“There may be different health situations that are private, they may not want to necessarily talk to their parents about it, but they might need to get counsel on it. It’s about getting professional counsel on health related matters and it’s not just physical matters, these are emotional matters and mental disorders as well that may be coming to fruition,” said Machado.
Kailia said through this program he believes that they’ll be able to identify mental health and addictions issues that may otherwise be flying under the radar.
“It’s estimated that 7.6 per cent of teens between 15 and 18 have major depression and we feel that these are not being picked up through the normal channels,” he said, adding that somewhere between three and seven per cent of kids have ADHD and it’s been affecting their school grades.
The pilot project is currently one of two in the province, which is funded by the BC government through the Practice Support Program, which will last until the end of the month.
Kailia said despite taking time away from his medical office, he feels this is a valuable project to be a part of.
“Youth mental health and addictions is one of my interest and I have some preliminary training in it… it just seemed like an exciting opportunity to meet with a segment of Nelson’s population that is underserviced,” he said.
“There’s a lot of stuff going on in a youth’s life in addition to school, it’s a really tough time and they often need someone to talk to and they need access to medical care.”
Kailia said that because of this, himself and the current counseling staff at LVR work well together to provide the support that students need.
While it may be too early in the program to measure the impact, Machado said he feels it’s going to make a big improvement.
“I think students are going to be better at school because one of the things that happens is that when we have kids in class were trying to teach they’re sometimes not even there because they’ve got this constant worry and anxiety about something that’s going on… by decreasing that anxiety they’re going to be more present in class and then they can move forward,” said Machado.
“Our biggest issue is just getting kids to be present in class… because they’re coming to school with medical and emotional baggage that needs to be somehow addressed and processed and once it is, there’s a contentment and their mind is somewhat free to engage in the class.”