It is no secret that we now live in a world that is fully aware of mental health issues. Over the last few years, anxiety rates in people of all ages have been climbing. People born after 1945 are 10 times more likely to develop depression in their lifetime, according to a study done by the European Therapy Studies Institute. This is a clear sign that mental illness is not just genetic, but possibly environmental or learned because human genes do not develop that fast in 71 years.

Unfortunately, only one in four children and teens in Canada who need mental health services are able to access them, according to the Canadian Mental Health Association. 50 to 70% of all mental illnesses show up before the age of 18. Anxiety disorders, attention-deficit-hyperactivity disorders, and depression are the most common mental illnesses found in young people today.

Sadly, young people who struggle with mental illness not only have to deal with the disease but also have to fight the stigma that comes with it. According to Webster’s dictionary, stigma is a set of negative and often unfair beliefs that a society or group of people have about something. “As a society, we need to work together to reduce any stigma around mental health,” said Ms. Kasey Chittenden, a counsellor at Riverside Secondary. One common example of stigma is the assumption that everyone with a hallucinatory illness is violent and should be kept far away from society. For girls, it is the assumption that they are weak and cannot handle responsibility. For boys, it is the presumption that they must be “manly” and hide their troubles.

Most teens will turn to the Internet for help when they are struggling with mental illness. It is risky when a teen who cannot access care tries to find a solution online because most health issues as specified by the Internet have become warped to the point of no return. A common example concerning mental health would be some aspects of Tumblr, a blogging website. There are a few blogs that glorify depression among other mental illnesses as being ‘special.’ However, this does not mean that we should abandon the Internet at all costs. It means that when searching for relief from mental health symptoms, people should be careful not to believe the first result that pops up.

Some young people decide to turn to self-medication as a way to cope with mental health issues. Ms. Karen O’Brien works with the SHARE family and community services department. She supports students with questions or concerns regarding substance abuse. “Some people turn to substance use as a way to cope with mental illness, to self-medicate, or because they are curious. There is no single answer to why people turn to this method because it is very individual,” said O’Brien. “There are no limitations on what method each gender will use to cope.”

All of these negative facts may seem discouraging, but there are ways to get better. A study done at the Mayo Clinic proves that exercising regularly for a minimum of 30 minutes relieves symptoms of mild depression. “Getting enough physical activity, rest, and surrounding yourself with positive people are great ways to practice self-care,” said Mrs. Bonnie Angstadt, a youth worker at Riverside Secondary.

If you are suffering from anxiety or depression, seek help. There are many ways to do so; one way to start is by visiting a website such as Anxiety BC which has an app that you can download.

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