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What is Mental Health?

Mental health is a part of your overall health.

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It's about:

  • how you feel, think, and behave;
  • how you cope with the ups and downs of everyday life;
  • how you feel about yourself and your life;
  • how you see yourself and your future;
  • how stress affects you;
  • how you deal with negative things that happen in your life;
  • your self-esteem or confidence.

                                                                                            (Ref.Children's Mental Health Ontario)

How can you tell if a child or youth is struggling with their mental health?

Some feelings and behaviours are a normal part of growing up.  However, the invisibility of some mental health disorders makes them easy to overlook, unlike a heart problem or a broken leg.  It’s often difficult to identify, for example, whether a child is simply sad or suicidal.

The way a child or youth acts or behaves may be a sign that he or she has a mental health need.  Ask yourself if the child’s behaviour is unusually intense; whether he or she has been acting like this for a while; whether the behaviour is age appropriate; and if the child’s behaviour is having a negative impact on the family or school.  Also look for:

  • Poorer marks and performance at school
  • Avoidance of family or friends
  • Frequent outbursts of anger or rage
  • Loss of appetite
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Rebelling against authority
  • Drinking a lot and/or drug use
  • Disinterest in doing things they used to enjoy
  • Damaging other people’s property
  • Constant worrying
  • No longer taking care of their appearance
  • Obsession with weight
  • Loss of energy and motivation
  • Habitually hitting or bullying children
  • Self-injury

What are the most common mental health problems affecting children and youth?

Although mental health problems among children and youth are vast and complicated, the following are the most common:

  • Anxiety Disorder
  • Depression
  • Conduct Disorder (bullying, vandalism, etc.)
  • Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
  • Eating Disorders
  • Schizophrenia
  • Bi-polar Disorder (Manic-Depression)

Can mental health problems be recognized and treated?

Yes! Research has proven that early intervention is critical to providing a hopeful and healthy future for kids struggling with their mental health.  The onset of most mental illnesses occurs before the age of 18.  Left untreated, these kids may suffer needlessly and become a stress on their families, schools, peers, and the community.  It is important to take the signs seriously and seek help quickly.

Where can I get help for a child or youth?

Every part of Ontario is served by an accredited Children’s Mental Health Centre.  Help is available in your area.  These government-funded agencies specialize in working with children and youth and offer professional mental health services at no charge.  Contact an agency in your community or receive a referral from a teacher, school principal or family physician.  The child’s name may have to go on a waiting list before receiving treatment.

To find the centre in your community, follow this link.

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