Faced with the stresses of adult life it can be easy to dismiss a teenager’s problems as kids stuff, but school counsellors know better.
Belmont secondary school counsellor Natalie Handy said she sees firsthand the variety of mental health problems teenagers suffer from.
“You can bring in a student to talk about timetables and you can end with a completely different conversation about abuse that’s going on in the home or suicide ideation or eating disorders. You never know where the conversation is going to go.”
Belmont secondary marked last Tuesday’s national Child and Youth Mental Health Day with a youth mental health information booth set up outside during the school’s lunch break.
The lure of free treats and swag brought students over, but once hooked the counsellors were ready with pamphlets and information on resources available to youth who feel as though they might need some help.
The giveaways for students were donated by a number of local businesses.
“We’re very aware and clear with kids that we don’t want them taking this information away to self-diagnose,” Handy said. “But we do want them to have the information to access a lot of resources … to follow up with us or a family doctor.”
The booth proved popular, with a few hundred students showing up to grab a treat and information.
Handy believes we, as a society, don’t recognize or talk about how a big a problem mental health issues are for today’s youth. Adults don’t realize just how much stress young people can be under, said Handy, whether it’s related to academics, relationships, home life, peer pressures, societal pressures or all of the above.
The popularization of social media and the frenetic immediacy of modern culture is also taking away from a teen’s time to reflect, to process information, which can add to the stress.
“There needs to be time to reflect, there needs to be time to pause and understand what’s going on, because it’s all happening so fast,” Handy said. “You see a lot of anxiety, lots of depression in our youth.”
Larger mental health issues, such as schizophrenia and bi-polar disorder, also often first arise during the teenage years. Early detection is key, so the more students know, and the less stigma that surrounds admitting to mental health problems, the higher the likelihood a student will seek help.
“I think as a group we just need to find more ways to reach out to kids and their families.”
Help is a call away
n Teens who feel they may need help with anxiety, depression or any other mental health issues are advised to see a school counsellor or family doctor, but initial information can be easily found at the Kids Help Phone (1-800-668-6868) or online at keltymentalhealth.ca or youth.anxietybc.com
“Talk to somebody, pick up the phone and call a help line, or come and talk (to a counsellor). It’s about taking that first step, and I know how difficult it is, but it’s so important,” Handy said.