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In recent years, CHEO has been experiencing an increase in the number of children and youth with suicidal thoughts. Suicide remains the second leading cause of death in adolescence. One in five teens reported that they seriously considered suicide in the past year; two thirds of youth with suicidal thoughts will not tell anyone about those thoughts.

Staff at CHEO are continually looking for ways to help young patients and their families. This includes the implementation of innovative, donor-funded programs like “Head to Toe.” This program ensures that health professionals speak with all youth 12 and older, within four hours of their admission to hospital for any reason, about current or past suicidal thoughts.

This allows medical staff to initiate a thorough mental health assessment so that mental health struggles don’t fall through the cracks. This program is quite simply saving lives. CHEO Foundation funds helped to launch this project, and with continued support, added a full time registered nurse (RN) on inpatient surgery and hematology/oncology units.

This position ensures that each unit’s nursing and physician staff receive training and support on how to ask about suicidal thoughts and how to respond, continuing to move forward with CHEO’s vision of the best life for every child and youth. When a youth screens positively, these funds ensure that a mental health assessment performed by the full time RN forms the basis of a collaboration with the youth and family to deliver the supports and resources they need.


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