It’s no secret that young people are struggling with mental health. A Canada-wide survey found that during COVID-19, young adults have been more likely to develop mental health conditions like depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder than any other age group. Sadly, mental illness is a leading cause of disability in youth today and often develops early in life.
A recent Statistics Canada Health Report stated that 15 to 24-year-olds in Canada have the highest rate of anxiety and mood disorders compared to other age groups. One in ten youth report having experienced symptoms of depression in their lifetime, and one in seven report suicidal thoughts.
These statistics, though upsetting, are not particularly surprising to many parents and caregivers, as there is growing awareness around the need for better access to youth mental health services, treatment and supports.
October 2-8 is Mental Illness Awareness Week (MIAW) – a national public education campaign designed to help open the eyes of Canadians to the reality of mental illness. Having the right resources and supports in place can significantly reduce mental health issues in youth. Here are three ways you can help:
Promote healthy life habits
Mental wellness goes beyond the absence of mental illness, it also includes your physical, psychological and social well-being. Children and teenagers are very suggestible and influenced by their environment. Adolescence is an especially crucial period for developing healthy social and emotional habits including – adopting good sleep patterns, eating healthy foods, exercising regularly, developing coping, problem-solving, and interpersonal skills, and learning to manage emotions – all necessary tools for developing positive mental health into adulthood.
Normalize talking about emotions
Talking to your child about mental health might seem intimidating, but it may be one of the most important conversions you will ever have. Many research studies have found that when kids are taught about their emotions at an earlier age, they are better equipped to understand and deal with their own emotions and of those around them. More than anything, it’s important to create a supportive and nurturing environment for your child to share their emotions. Just like anything else in life, when it comes to emotions, practice makes perfect!
Encourage the use of support services, if needed
It’s normal for youth to struggle with their emotions now and then. Growing up, going to school, and learning about the world can cause anxiety, stress, or short periods of depression. However, if any of these issues last for a long period of time—two weeks or more—then they may be dealing with a mental illness that calls for professional help. It’s important to talk with your child to let them know that mental health is just as important as physical health, and to give them the tools they need to support their mental wellbeing.
Maintaining positive mental health begins with understanding the facts. Be aware of the signs of mental illness and the resources available. If you, your child, or someone you know is struggling with mental health issues and needs support, here are some additional resources available in Ontario:
Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) – crisis services can be reached at 1-888-893-8333 (toll free) or visit www.cmhastarttalking.ca/find-help/.
ConnexOntario – province-wide information and referral services for those with mental health or addiction challenges. Visit www.connexontario.ca or call 1-866-531-2600 which operates 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
Kids Help Phone – kidshelpphone.ca or phone 1-800-668-6860.
Get A-Head – provides no-cost, online counselling to students attending an Ontario college or university. Visit www.geta-head.com to book an appointment.
Book an appointment with a virtual doctor at no cost
If you would like to speak with an Ontario doctor about your (or your child’s) mental health needs, visit www.tuliphealth.ca. Tulip Health is a virtual, phone-based, walk-in clinic that provides non-emergency related healthcare. Our doctors are trained to make the appropriate recommendations or referrals to specialists, when needed. Tulip Health offers same-day or next-day appointments any day of the week. It’s easy to use and it’s covered by OHIP. To book an appointment, visit www.tuliphealth.ca.