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About Sickkids
About SickKids

April 11, 2014

Connected North brings telepsychiatry to Nunavut

By Rebecca Milec

For youth in Canada, mental health is a growing concern. Ten to 20 per cent of youth have one or more mental health disorders, and suicide is the second leading cause of death. Focus in on northern Canada and the statistics become even more alarming, with the suicide rate in Nunavut 28 times higher than the national average.

To address this problem, The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids) along with Cisco Canada and RBC Foundation announced the launch of Connected North, a program which aims to enhance children’s mental health services in northern Canada.  Nunavut Premier Peter Taptuna attended the announcement, which took place in Iqaluit on April 2, 2014.

Connected North is a program developed with SickKids Tele-Link Mental Health Program (Tele-Link) and partners RBC Foundation and Cisco to improve the mental health and well-being of children and youth living in northern Canada by providing them with access to mental health expertise. SickKids psychiatrists use live video broadcasting technology to consult with patients and local mental health teams. Psychiatrists conduct clinical assessments of patients and provide recommendations, such as a diagnosis and/or treatment options. They also work with the local mental health providers to create educational opportunities for clinicians to supplement their skill set, educate about mental health challenges for youth and help them develop the skills to treat these patients.

“All children and adolescents deserve access to mental health care, regardless of where they live,” says David Willis, Clinical Manager at Tele-Link. “In northern Canada, access to psychiatry services is largely non-existent. Bringing SickKids expertise to the North will provide barrier-free access to mental health specialists, increased treatment options and hopefully lives saved.”

Over the course of three years, Tele-Link will become available to four regions in Nunavut: Kitikmeot, Kivalliq, Qikikstalluq and Iqaluit. This expansion is possible due to a $200,000 donation from RBC Foundation and technology donations from Cisco.

Tele-Link was developed by SickKids in 2000 in order to address the mental health needs of children and adolescents in rural and remote areas of Ontario.  It aims to remove barriers of health care access due to geographical isolation, give access to a wide variety of children’s mental health specialties, and conduct formalized education sessions.

Learn more about Tele-Link initiatives.