With the stress of the Christmas season behind us, it should be time to sit back and relax, right? Don’t be so sure – take a look at the people closest to you – is someone not doing OK?
According to the Canadian Mental Health Association, mental illness indirectly affects all Canadians at some time. In any given year, 1 in 5 people in Canada – of all ages, education, income levels and cultures – will personally experience a mental health problem or illness. By age 40, about 50% of the population will have, or have had, a mental illness.
The most alarming statistic is this: suicide accounts for 24% of all deaths among 15-24-year-olds and 16% among 25-44-year-olds.
10-20% of Canadian youth are affected by a mental illness or disorder, like schizophrenia, bi-polar or anxiety disorders. The total number of 12-19-year-olds in Canada at risk for developing depression is 3.2 million! Combine that with the fact that Canada’s youth suicide rate is the third highest in the industrialized world, and the warning bells should be sounding.
Unfortunately, the stigma or discrimination attached to mental illnesses makes it difficult, or impossible, for those affected to seek the help they need to get started on the road to recovery.
Young people are most vulnerable to social pressures, and if you combine that with doubts about self-image, school performance, sexuality, etc., it creates an insurmountable wall for someone who is experiencing mental health issues. Often, they may be unaware that what they are feeling is indicative of a serious problem, and they often turn to alcohol and/or drugs as a way to cope.
Reclusive behaviour, lack of enjoyment, low energy, reduced concentration, changes in weight – these can all be signs that all is not right with your teen.
National initiatives like Bell’s Let’s Talk Day on January 31 create an environment for people to open up about what they are experiencing, and to discover that they are not alone in their struggle. Many well-known Canadians have shared their stories in an effort to eliminate the stigma which surrounds mental illness.
Locally, the Haliburton-Kawartha-Pine Ridge branch of the Canadian Mental Health Association is a wealth of information and support.
Their website is www.cmhahkpr.ca, and help is available 24/7 at 705-745-6484 or 1-866-995-9933.