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Changing the system, changing the future

The Faculty of Education’s Single Ceiling initiative sets out to alter the face of children’s mental health care

by Cory Habermehl, MA'05 | November 24, 2014

Between 15 and 20 per cent of Canadian children are affected by mental health disorders, yet only one out of every five receives treatment. The Faculty of Education aims to change this with its Single Ceiling initiative.

The numbers are shocking.

Between 15 and 20 per cent of Canadian children are affected by mental health disorders, yet only one out of every five of these children receives treatment within our current health-care system. If socio-economic factors such as poverty are included, children become even less likely to receive treatment.

“It’s deeply concerning,” says Vicki Schwean, a children’s psychologist and dean of Western’s Faculty of Education. “Imagine if only one in five adults diagnosed with cancer were given treatment; society would be outraged.”

A large part of the problem is the way the children’s mental health-care system is organized, says Schwean.

The various services that exist are distributed throughout the community, making it difficult to navigate the system. Quite often, children are sent from place to place, from expert to expert, without finding the help they need.

Western’s Faculty of Education is seeking to change all that. Through its innovative Single Ceiling initiative, the faculty has set out to improve care for these vulnerable children by organizing children’s mental health systems and experts under one roof, in a single ceiling approach.

The approach will create an environment of shareable knowledge around children’s mental health care. Experts will be able to help more children, while at the same time researching a number of new, evidence-based treatments that will help bring about systemic changes to the field of children’s mental health care.

“You simply can’t treat all children the same,” says Schwean. “Our team members will work together to look at a variety of social determinants, socio-economic factors and parental profiles in order to develop individual, evidence-based treatment pathways for children.”

The team will also be working to develop early prevention and intervention strategies, and will empower the local community by training teachers and parents to utilize those strategies to help improve vulnerable children’s chances of success.

“The Faculty of Education’s vision for improving children’s mental health care aligns so well with what we want to do,” says Lynne Livingstone, chair of the Child and Youth Network.

Composed of local organizations committed to improving outcomes for children, the Child and Youth Network is one of the Faculty of Education’s primary partners in the Single Ceiling initiative. They hope to house the initiative in their new family centre currently being constructed in London’s Argyle community.

“We’re thrilled to be helping to change the way services are delivered,” says Livingstone. “This will really help make a difference in these children’s lives.”

Currently, the Faculty of Education is raising $3 million for the Single Ceiling initiative to help research and develop treatment pathways, educate the local community and to share the results of their work across Canada and beyond. The initiative will make huge strides in reducing the number of children with mental health issues, says Schwean.

“We want to use this work as a catalyst for change in children’s mental health care, provincially, nationally and globally,” she says. “This initiative is an important investment in better health for our children and in a better future for all of us.”

To support the Single Ceiling initiative, or to learn more about the Faculty of Education's priorities, contact Tracy Fawdry, alumni & development officer, Faculty of Education (519 661-2111, ext. 87643 or

This article appeared in the Winter 2014 edition of Impact Western
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