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National plan to address child and youth mental health needs unveiled

Updated: Mar 15, 2021

Canada’s Children’s Hospital Foundations (CCHF) is launching a groundbreaking partnership with Sobeys to address the critical need for early interventions in child and youth mental health. 'A Family of Support' Child and Youth Mental Health Initiative will fund local mental health programs to support specific provincial needs at 13 Canadian children’s hospitals, including the Centre for Child & Adolescent Mental Health.

Thanks to community support, the Alberta Children's Hospital Foundation is proudly partnering with Alberta Health Services in the creation of a new Centre for Child & Adolescent Mental Health, slated to open in Fall 2022.

“Partnerships like this matter,” said Mark Hierlihy, President and CEO, Canada’s Children’s Hospital Foundations. “Mental health challenges continue to pose an enormous threat to Canadian families from coast to coast and children and youth are among the most vulnerable. Sobeys has recognized the importance of this issue in communities where their employees live and work and, as a family-focused company, want to invest in a national initiative focused on child and youth mental health.” 

Children, youth, and families struggling with mental health challenges routinely visit children’s hospitals for support. As a result, children’s hospitals face an unprecedented demand for their services in mental health. Early interventions for children, youth and their families are key to preventing long-term struggles with mental illness. Unfortunately, the impacts of COVID-19 have resulted in an even greater need for child and youth mental health services. 

“Isolation and uncertainty are exacerbating mental health issues for hundreds of young people in our community. They need our support." - Saifa Koonar, President and CEO, Alberta Children's Hospital Foundation

“Now more than ever, families are seeing health and economic crises collide. For families of children in medical crisis who rely on the Alberta Children’s Hospital, the compounding stress can be too much to bear,” says Saifa Koonar, President and CEO of the Alberta Children’s Hospital Foundation. “Isolation and uncertainty are exacerbating mental health issues for hundreds of other young people in our community. They need our support. It’s heartwarming to know that community leaders like Sobeys and their employees are committed to standing beside these young people by supporting the new Centre for Child & Adolescent Mental Health.”

Early intervention and education are at the heart of each hospital’s programs. The programs aim to help children’s hospitals reduce patient wait times, create, and adapt clinical spaces, expand capacity across the healthcare system and enhance training for mental health leaders, pediatricians and frontline healthcare workers.

In Calgary, the partnership will support a new research initiative called the Foundational Discovery Platform, which will engage young people at the Centre for Child & Adolescent Mental Health in the systematic collection of a wide range of genetic, medical and behavioural data. Over the next five years, 1,000 children and adolescents will be invited into the Discovery 1000 program for a longitudinal study of anxiety and depression designed to make interventions more effective.

To fund the “A Family of Support” initiative, the Sobey Foundation and Sobeys Inc. have committed to donating and raising millions of dollars. Funding from the initiative will help enhance access to high-quality, long-term mental health care for families across Canada. 

Canadians will have the opportunity to donate through an in-store fundraising campaign running from September 17 to October 1 at all Sobeys Inc. banner stores, including: Sobeys, Safeway, IGA, Farm Boy, Foodland, FreshCo, Lawton’s Drugs, Thrifty Foods, BoniSoir, Co-op, Les Marché Tradition, Need’s Convenience, Pete’s Frootique & Fine Foods, Rachelle Béry, Tradition BoniChoix and Voisin.

One hundred per cent of the funds raised will support local children’s hospitals and their “A Family of Support” program.

“Now, perhaps more than any other time in recent history, people need to know that there are forces hard at work to carve out a clear path for mental health care and education,” said Heather Sobey-Connors, Chair of the Sobey Family Council and Sobey Foundation Trustee. ” The Sobey Foundation. “For too long, the path has been littered with obstacles and challenges for Canadian families. We have a responsibility to come together and be there for our children, and act as a dedicated support system to ensure they are not alone.” 

Children’s hospitals in Canada see over 5,000 children and youth each day and are home to world-leading experts whose research aims to put new knowledge and tools in the hands of frontline child healthcare providers. The children’s hospitals depend on the support of community partners to spearhead a long-overdue shift in our healthcare system, one that will promote healthier and more resilient families for generations to come.

For a full summary of all 13 programs being supported through this partnership, please visit

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