Life & Co. 101
Headline: Youth mental health
Over the years, mental health has become more and more on the forefront. The fight to end the stigmatization of struggling mentally has become more public as the battle to end the shame continues. Schools have embraced positive mental health in youth and the no bullying campaign continues to make its way through the school system. What we can’t help but notice though, is with the issues being more open and talked about, why are the youth declining mentally at a faster rate than before?
It is becoming increasingly harder to maintain positive mental health and self-esteem throughout the teenage years. Now we are fully aware that this does exist, we are simply saying that unfortunately many are struggling and at alarming rates. So why is this? Why are youth suicide rates and self harm continuously growing? And more importantly, how can we end the suffering?
According to statistics Canada, suicide is the leading cause of death in youth aged 15-19. Statistic Canada states that between 2000 and 2016, the average suicide rate for indigenous youth aged 10-24 is 45.1 per 100,000 compared to 8.5 for non- indigenous youth. These numbers are quite shocking and quite literally beg the question, why is youth mental health deteriorating at such a rapid pace, what is causing this?
To even begin touching on this topic, we first would like to point out that there are many contributing factors to mental health; we frankly cannot cover every issue in one blog. So what we will do is explore the issues we see daily.
The effect of teenage mental health and social media has been widely studied. Youth are exposed to negativity and negative influences day in and day out, all at quite literally at the palm of their hand. You would be hard pressed to find a teenager without a smart phone. Cyber bullying and the constant pressure to “keep up” with society’s unrealistic expectations is staggering. The young mind simply cannot cope. And speaking of coping skills, this is something that seems to be a struggle for many youth, having positive outlets to deal with the difficult emotions and situations they face. With social media, youth are not getting a break from school to home life; everything spills over onto social media with no time away for mental health breaks. As someone who grew up before the social media explosion, I cannot imagine the pressures this puts on the young mind.
We cannot leave out discussing the difficulty of growing up in an unstable home. Addiction, poverty, loss of employment, and family violence are becoming all too familiar. With difficult times come difficult situations and pressures that change family dynamics and individuals. Youth are exposed to these things and are left to deal with the aftermath, often with no support or guidance. We are all aware of the lack of resources in our community for youth. It is quite sickening that there are not mental health facilities geared toward youth that are easily accessed and available. School
are so over loaded they do not have the time to spend with all who need it, wait times for doctor’s are crazy (if you’re lucky enough to have one), and therapists and other professionals who specialize in youth mental health are not easy to come by. This needs to change.
Talking about all the changes that need to be made is not working; implementing anti-bullying campaigns is not working. We need action, we need resources, and we need to be teaching our children emotional regulation and coping skills. We need to be teaching our children that making that joke about someone, making fun of someone, calling someone a name, may be enough to push someone struggling over the edge. We never know what someone is facing behind closed doors and we need to be aware of this, our children need to be aware of this. Our children need to be made aware that struggling with mental health is not a weakness, nor do you have to suffer in silence.
Speak with your kids, keep the lines of communication open, and more importantly be the guiding force in your children’s lives. Be involved in their day to day beyond the typical, “how was your day” as they walk off to their bedrooms. We cannot change the system overnight, but we can all play a part in educating our children and being the support they need.