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CHEO Launches New Mental Health Website as First Annual Update to the Community Shows Record Demand for Mental Health Services

OTTAWA – Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario (CHEO) has seen an unprecedented demand for its mental health services and, in response to significant community interest on this topic, today releases its first annual Mental Health update to the community.  Coinciding with the release of this update, CHEO is launching a new mental health website designed to provide children, youth, and families with tools to encourage healthy discussion of this very important topic.

The past year has been the busiest year in CHEO’s almost 40 year history; especially in terms of mental health.  CHEO has seen an almost 50% increase in the number of visits to the emergency department for mental health related crises in the last two years, and an 86% increase in out-patient referrals.   As a result, more than 760 children and youth are on the waiting list to see a CHEO clinician, and wait times have increased from approximately 2 – 3 months, to 6 – 12 months. 

It is not only the volume that has increased, but the severity of cases as well.  CHEO has seen a more dramatic increase in kids exhibiting high risk behaviors.  For instance, the percentage of patients admitted for imminent suicide risk and needing immediate and intensive treatment has increased by 22% in the last three years, and the percentage of admissions for serious self-injury went up 67%. 

Mood disorders, including depression, represent 54% of admissions.  This has grown by more than 80% in the last two years.  The other significant change is in admissions for psychotic disorders, up 67% in the last two years, although this still represents only a small percentage of admissions (7%).



Fiscal Year




Total % change

Emergency Visits





In-Patient Days





Outpatient referrals received at CHEO






The increased demand for CHEO’s mental health services may be due, in part, to there being less stigma surrounding mental illness.

“Although we still have a ways to go before talking about your mental illness is like talking about your cancer or your asthma, one thing is clear. The world is changing.  And this is a good thing” said Alex Munter, president and chief executive officer, CHEO. “With early intervention and treatment we can change the entire trajectory of young people’s lives forever altering both their physical and mental health and their life expectations.”

CHEO, The Royal and the Youth Services Bureau are working together with other community organizations to see how to expand the reach of mental health services, reduce wait lists, identify critical gaps and help more families in the community.

To encourage the continued dialogue on mental health, CHEO has launched a new website with a variety of helpful tools for parents and teens, including:

  • Almost 30 videos featuring mental health experts answering questions from parents in the community. 

  • “I’m Glad You Asked”: a regular column in which two CHEO mental health experts – Dr. Hazen Gandy and Dr. Phil Ritchie -- answer questions from parents and teens relating to mental illness and improving mental health. 

  • Easy-to-understand information for parents and youth to read on a variety of mental health topics such as depression, anxiety, bullying, self-harm, eating disorders, suicide, psychosis, ADHD, and more.

  • List of suggested resources for more information.


CHEO is one of the largest providers of child and youth mental health services in Ontario.  It offers a broad range of both hospital and community-based services for children and youth (aged 0 – 18) and their families -- spanning prevention and early intervention to more intensive diagnostic and treatment services. CHEO and The Royal partner to provide an integrated system of specialized psychiatric services.

CHEO is also home to internationally-recognized researchers in the field of mental health, eating disorders and outcomes management. Their research has helped shape clinical programs at CHEO and beyond.



For more information contact:

Marie Belanger
Media relations


(613) 737-2343




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