Young Quebecers who give care at home will get help from new support team

According to experts, one in five teens and young adults under 30 has to care for a parent or close relative who suffers from mental health issues.

It's an exhausting responsibility for people like Patricia Grammond.

"It was a lot of love to give. A lack of energy, and a lot of culpability," said Grammond, who has spent her life looking after a relative.

In an effort to ease the pressure, Quebec will finance an existing organization that already supports caregivers.

They're called Reseau Avant de Craquer (the 'Before-you-Collapse' Network), which until now, was geared towards supporting caregivers committed to the elderly.

This new initiative is specifically aimed at youth.

"First of all, recognize these youths with a problem, we want to accompany them through the process," said Quebec junior health minister Lionel Carmant.

A total of 35 mental health professionals will be hired with the specific goal of reaching out to teenagers and young adults who face the responsibility of caring for a parent or friend who suffers from mental health.

The outreach workers will have a background in specialized education, psychotherapy and social work says the program's director Rene Cloutier.

"Thousands of young caregivers in Quebec need to be identified and supported so that they can live their life as young people as best as possible and preserve their own mental health," said Cloutier.

They will make sure the caregivers won't burn out or fall into depression themselves.

"I want the professional and the persons giving help to [caregiver] to really help them" said Grammond, who says such a relief program would have made a huge difference in her life.

Carmant admitted it won't make up for the shortage of psychiatric care in the province, but said the program will at least offer resources to some.

"Waiting lists have decreased from 28,000 to 20,000, we have hired 500 mental health professionals but obviously there's been an increase in the number of demand due to the pandemic, by about 40 per cent," he said.

The project has $7.5 million in funding over five years from Quebec. Another $1.7 million from the Support for Relatives organization will also be provided to carry out the initiative.

If the program works out, Carmant said it will be expanded across Quebec. 

- With files from The Canadian Press