In the last six months I’ve had conversations with three different friends whose teenage daughters have been experiencing various forms of mental illness. As I listened to these women, who are all loving, involved and wonderful parents, I started thinking about the prevalence of depression and anxiety with kids and doing a little research to understand early warning signs.
The hard thing is that many early warning signs are vague – showing more unhappy, lonely, worried or fearful feelings; complaining of headaches and other aches and pains; sleeping or eating problems; demonstrating lower self-esteem or self-blame. The Canadian Medical Association says that two out of every three people suffer in silence when it comes to mental illness and truth be told, a lot of the ‘signs’ mentioned above might be hard to miss even if kids were being more vocal about it.
I’ve quickly realized that when it comes to mental health, thinking “it won’t happen to my kids” or “I don’t know anyone experiencing that” is just simply not true. You know five people right? According to the Canadian Institute of Health Research, one in five Canadians will experience a form of mental illness at some point in their lives. One in five. Just for fun, take your Facebook friends list and divide that number by five to make it just a little more real.
When looking at kids in particular, the Canadian Mental Health Association has some startling statistics:
- Approximately 5% of male youth and 12% of female youth, age 12 to 19, have experienced a major depressive episode.
- 3.2 million 12-19 year olds in Canada are at risk for developing depression
- Suicide is among the leading causes of death in 15-24 year old Canadians, second only to accidents; 4,000 people die prematurely each year by suicide.
- Once depression is recognized, help can make a difference for 80% of people who are affected, allowing them to get back to their regular activities.
- Surpassed only by injuries, mental disorders in youth are ranked as the second highest hospital care expenditure in Canada.
- In Canada, only 1 out of 5 children who need mental health services receives them
I must admit that I’m incredibly proud of the company I work for, Bell Aliant, for taking a stand and supporting mental health in our community (kids and adults). I try to avoid, as much as possible, promoting things within these blogs but tomorrow is Bell Let’s Talk Day and our company will be donating 5₵ more to mental health initiatives for every text message or long distance call made by a Bell or Bell Aliant customer, for every tweet using #BellLetsTalk and every Facebook share of the Bell Let’s Talk image.
Further to that, I encourage everyone to come out to the Halifax Metro Centre tomorrow for 11:30 as we attempt to break an official Guinness World Record title at noon (most people sending a text message simultaneously) while generating awareness and raising money for mental health programs in our community. CTV personality Seamus O’Regan will be there along with prizes, giveaways and a free lunch. Register for free at http://letstalkhalifax.ca/
and bring your family, friends and colleagues too.
Statistics show that mental illness will affect us or someone we love, potentially our kids, during the course of our lives. Join us tomorrow and help do something about it.