Let’s Talk About Mental Health: Resources for Youth

  • 70% of mental health problems have their onset during childhood or adolescence.
  • Young people aged 15 to 24 are more likely to experience mental illness and/or substance use disorders than any other age group.
  • In 2016, suicide accounted for 19% of deaths among youth aged 10 to 14, 29% among youth aged 15 to 19, and 23% among young adults aged 20-24.
  • First Nations youth die by suicide about 5 to 6 times more often than non-Indigenous youth.
  • Suicide rates for Inuit youth are among the highest in the world, at 11 times the national average.

Mental Health and Addiction: Facts and Statistics, Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) website, 2021

(A version of this article first appeared in Kingston Neighbours magazine, January, 2021.)

All the holiday gifts have been unwrapped and the sparkly decorations packed away. Many of us are back to work and school, trudging under grey skies through sleet, slush and snow. Dreary and cold, the world seems less merry and bright than it did one month ago. Welcome to January.

In what feels like a long, gloomy month, it’s both fitting and important to discuss mental health. This year, Bell Let’s Talk Day is on Thursday, January 28. Its purpose: reduce the stigma surrounding mental illness by talking about it. Many campaigns focus on adults; however, children and adolescents also experience mental health challenges. According to the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA), the following symptoms — if intense, persistent, developmentally inappropriate and/or interfering with daily life —  may indicate an underlying mental health issue in youth: 

  • Sudden drop in marks 
  • Constant worrying
  • Intrusive thoughts, repetitive behaviours
  • Changes in sleeping/eating habits
  • Obsession with weight
  • Acting out, increased risk-taking 
  • Drinking/using drugs
  • Mood swings
  • Frequent outbursts of anger or tears
  • Less care in appearance/hygiene
  • Withdrawal from friends & family
  • Decreased energy/motivation

The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) reports 70% of mental health problems have their onset during childhood or adolescence, so it’s vital we support our kids’ mental health. But what can we do?

  1. Immediately consult our primary care providers for support, information and referrals if our children start to struggle. 
  2. Take care of our own mental health by getting help when needed.
  3. Talk openly and often with our children about mental health, not just on Bell Let’s Talk Day.
  4. Make phone numbers and resources available so our kids can access more information and support:
Phone Numbers/Texting
Canada’s Kids Help Phone — 1-800-668-6868, or text CONNECT to 686868. 

Crisis Texting Service for Kids of Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) Families — Text CAFKIDS to 686868.

First Nations and Inuit Hope for Wellness Help Line — 1‑855‑242-3310. Phone counseling is available in English, French, Cree, Ojibway and Inuktitut.
Big Feelings Come And Go, 2018, Canadian Centre for Child Protection Inc. & New Directions for Children, Youth, Adults and Families, 4+A book for young kids on how our bodies react to intense emotions. Get a free pdf copy at: https://protectchildren.ca/en/order/product/301:en/.

What To Do When You’re Cranky & Blue: A Guide for Kids, 2014, James J. Crist, 8+ — For older kids, this books addresses sadness and “hard-to-handle” problems like grief, depression, bipolar disorder and suicide.

Depression: A Teen’s Guide to Survive and Thrive, 2016, Dr. Jacqueline B. Toner & Dr. Claire A.B. Freeland, 12+ — Based on cognitive-behavioural principles, this is a comprehensive guide to strategies to combat depression.

YA Novels About Mental Health — Please see a previous Lisa’s Book Corner article that gives a curated list of the latest YA novels tackling mental health issues for teens.
EMentalHealth.ca – a comprehensive Canadian web resource to learn about different mental health conditions and to find support in your area.

TeenMentalHealth.Org  — a website with evidence-based mental health research and resources for all ages.
  1. Most importantly, dial 911 if someone is in crisis, feeling suicidal or in immediate danger. Help is available; we are not alone. 

Mental health issues may initially seem overwhelming, but with openness and information, we can support each other. Please reach out. Let’s talk about it.

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