Mental health for children and youth

A 10-part series on dealing with mental health issue in the young

Dr. David Smith

How to get the help you need

Dr. David Smith

Special to the Sooke News Mirror

For children and teenagers in BC, coping well with the demands of school work, busy schedules and social relationships in today’s chaotic world reflects resilient mental health. But some B.C. children and youth are unable to cope well with the daily stresses of their lives and the results can be debilitating or tragic.

An estimated 13 per cent of youth in B.C. each year experience a mental health issue —that means up to 83,700 children under the age of 19 may be suffering. Studies show that receiving appropriate help at the right time may enable a child or youth to return to good health or prevent the escalation of symptoms, warding off larger crises or more chronic illnesses, and even at times saving young lives.

But unfortunately, the majority of youth experiencing a mental health issue, or their families, do not seek help. Why is this? There are likely a number of key factors: youth and family may lack understanding about mental health issues or may be unable to recognise the symptoms of a mental health problem; they may not know how to access the right services, who to see, or how to navigate B.C.’s mental health system; they may be worried about possible stigma, or labelling, and hoping it is simply a “phase” that will pass.

As an adolescent and adult psychiatrist working for the last 11 years in Interior Health (IH), I appreciate how frightening and worrying it can be for youth and families when a mental health issue arises. But I also know the right help can make all the difference and that good recovery is possible even with some of the most serious of mental health concerns. And “help” does not always mean treatment with medication. In fact, many mental health problems in children and youth can be very successfully treated with other techniques, particularly Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), which, in essence, teaches skills to address the thoughts, feelings and behaviors that underlie a mental health problem.

Working with a group of mental health colleagues in the Interior and on Vancouver Island—including families with lived experience, mental health clinicians from the Ministry of Children and Family Development, health authority professionals, school counsellors, family doctors, pediatricians and others — we have come up with a series of short columns to run in this paper to help youth and families recognize and understand some common mental health concerns. Over the next 10 weeks, in 10 articles, we will talk about issues like anxiety, depression, substance use, eating disorders, obsessive compulsive disorder, schizophrenia and family support. We will help you recognize the symptoms and know when and how to seek help. We will talk about successful skills, actions and treatments. These columns can also be found at www.shared carebc.ca so you can access them online or share with friends and family.

Numerous high quality websites are producing up to date information about a wide variety of mental health concerns and in each column, we will link you to online resources in B.C. for more information on each condition. A few excellent provincial sites to check out now include: openmindbc.ca; mindcheck.ca, forcesociety.ca, and keltymentalhealth.ca.

Next column, we will talk about anxiety.

 

Dr. David Smith is an adolescent and adult psychiatrist and the medical director of the Okanagan Psychiatric services for Interior Health. This series of columns on common child and youth mental health issues is a project of the Child and Youth Mental Health and Substances Use Collaborative. The Collaborative is jointly funded by Doctors of B.C. and the government of BC.

Just Posted

Saanich police investigating sexual assault in broad daylight

Social media lit up with accusations incident took place at Regina Park tent city

Swimmer halts journey across Strait of Juan de Fuca after hypothermia sets in

Susan Simmons swam for eight-and-a-half hours in 9 C choppy waters

‘Beauty amongst such tragedy:’ B.C. photographer captures nature’s trifecta

David Luggi’s photo from a beach in Fraser Lake shows Shovel Lake wildfire, Big Dipper and an aurora

Oak Bay man designer behind Canucks’ retro jersey

Jeremie White was 20 years old when he told Canucks assistant GM Brian Burke he had a design

Five things to do in Greater Victoria this weekend

Puppy yoga, horses, cars, water guns and more make up this weekend’s list of events to see

Ex-BCTF president ‘undeterred’ after early release from pipeline protest jail term

Susan Lambert and Order of Canada recipient Jean Swanson released early

Fast food chains look to capitalize on vegetarian, vegan trend with new items

Seven per cent of Canadians consider themselves vegetarians and 2.3 per cent identify as vegans

‘Hard on water:’ Smoke not the only long-range effect of wildfires

The project began more than 10 years ago after southern Alberta’s 2003 Lost Creek fire

B.C. VIEWS: Genuine aboriginal rights can be misused and discredited

Camp Cloud one of long line of protests falsely asserting title

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to march in Montreal’s Pride parade

Trudeau will end the day in his home riding of Papineau

Vancouver Whitecaps give up late goal in 2-2 draw with New York Red Bulls

Four of Vancouver’s next five games are at home

RCMP looking for missing Duncan teen

Dallas Macleod, 18, was last seen on Aug. 10

Most Read