People can’t simply be described as “happy” or “sad." Just as with physical health, there is a range of positive and negative factors on the mental health scale that change and can affect our mental well-being every day.
Youth are more susceptible to these changes for a variety of reasons. Creating a positive environment for our youth – in our classrooms, at home and in the community – is important to support their mental and emotional well-being. This can be done in a number of ways including but not limited to promoting healthy living (eating well, exercising and getting lots of sleep), promoting positive coping skills for dealing with stress, and reducing the stigma of mental illness so that everyone, especially youth, are more likely to seek help when needed. Although these steps do not guarantee good mental health (just as an apple a day won’t always keep the doctor away), they certainly can help improve it.
The numbers show why it is so important to promote mental health in our youth. Suicide is the leading cause of death in young people age 15-24. LGBTQ+ youth are four times more likely to attempt suicide than their heterosexual peers, and rates are six to seven times higher than average in the Aboriginal population.
But suicide is just part of the story. Mental health challenges in general affect an estimated 1 in 5 of youth, though that number may be much higher. Peer pressure, sexuality, gender identity, home life, stress and anxiety around school, friends and relationships, low self-esteem and a changing sense of self can all trigger or intensify symptoms. Despite this, fewer than 25% of those with mental health challenges receive specialized treatment.
The Thunder Bay District Health Unit works with community and other partners to raise awareness and develop programming that aims to support youth and promote positive mental health and well-being.
The Thunder Bay Youth Suicide Prevention Task Force is a community collaborative that aims to work in culturally respectful ways towards promoting mental health, decreasing stigma around youth mental health as well as coordinating a community response to youth suicide and supporting our communities in the City and District at times of crisis.
- Kids Help Phone - 1-800-668-6868 Kids Help Phone is a Canadian and world leader known for our expertise and continuous innovation as Canada’s only 24/7 counselling and information service for young people.
- TeenMentalHealth.org - TeenMentalHealth.org is a Halifax-based organization providing information on teen mental health with a Canadian perspective.
- Supporting Minds - An Educator's Guide to Promoting Students' Mental Health and Well-being (Ontario Ministry of Education – PDF)
- Positive Mental Health and Well-Being (Canadian Mental Health Association – Ontario)
- Improving the Health of Canadians: Exploring Positive Mental Health (Canadian Institute for Health Information – PDF)
- Good2Talk.ca - 1-866-925-5454 (Free, confidential and anonymous helpline (24/7/365) for post-secondary students aged 17-25 in Ontario. Professional counselling and information and referrals on mental health, addictions and well-being.)