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Mental Health for Young Canadians

Since 2020, with the COVID-19 pandemic, rates of anxiety have increased immensely in Canada. Similar findings have been revealed in many countries across the world wherein such data is monitored. As COVID wanes, despite the coming of new variants, anxiety seems to stay higher than usual among the general public. 

A 2022 study by the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health found 33.5 per cent of the 1,000 people surveyed between 18 and 39 years old reported an increase in anxiety, 29 per cent reported increased feelings of loneliness, and 28 per cent reported increased feelings of depression. Feelings in the study were compared to feelings from the prior year. 

The same report highlighted increases in depression, loneliness, and anxiety were most significant among Canadian women. Overall, 24 per cent of those surveyed reported feeling lonely, compared to 19 per cent reported in 2021.  

For adults, it is clear how many pressures are causing mental wellness to deplete. But what about young Canadians? 

According to Youth Mental Health Canada (YMHC), 1.2 million children and young people in Canada are affected by mental illness. Twenty per cent of Canada’s young people will experience mental illness before they are 25. Of those affected, 75 per cent of young people with mental disorders will not access effective mental health treatment. The YMHC also states that young people in Canada between 15 and 24 years old are at a higher risk of developing mental illness than any other age range. This includes substance use disorders. YMHC determined that 70 per cent of mental health-related issues in young people begin in childhood, stemming from how individuals are raised, their experiences, and inborn biological ailments. 

Negative factors influencing young people’s mental well-being are easily accessible through the Internet. Social media is a daily habit for millions of young people across Canada and the world. What many of these sites and apps create is an artificial representation of reality, something many young people may not be capable of fully comprehending. Through apps like Instagram and Snapchat, young people are exposed to the highlights of some of the most affluent people in our society. Social media can allow young people to feel as though they are not doing enough with their lives based on what they see others doing and posting. Social media also makes young people feel lonely when they see others interact with their friends, attending parties or other social events.  

Isolation also comes from social media, particularly during COVID-19, as FaceTime calls and messaging systems often substitute for real face-to-face interactions. While social, these interactions do not have the same neurochemical and emotional reward factor that actual time spent with another person will. 

Isolation among Canadians peaked over the COVID-19 pandemic as massive restrictions put an end to general outings. Young people were greatly affected as schools were closed, causing the 2021 school year to take place over Zoom in many Canadian districts. Additionally, the implementation of mask-wearing in all public spaces is predicted by some to have had a negative impact on the youngest Canadians attending school. The lack of ability to fully see the facial expressions of others may have lasting developmental impacts on young Canadians. Research on this particular subject is still in its infancy, and time will tell what the lasting impact will be for some. 

For a young person to be exposed to the manicured, well-dressed, wealthy nature of others, they may begin feeling inadequate or low class. With social media, this poison of comparison is unavoidable. Not only are young people, and all users generally, exposed to the lifestyle of the wealthy, but young people are seeing teens and young adults their age living lavish lifestyles. Seeing such things every day will leave a young person feeling as if they are not good enough and that this status is unattainable. This can lead to negative feelings towards oneself. Negative feelings towards oneself can lead to low self-worth, self-loathing, and depression.

Depression among young people can lead many to substance use disorders. While some are prone to substance use disorders, those who have grown up around substances or people addicted to substances, no one is impervious to such things as they grow older. Many young people will take substances to avoid negative thoughts or tendencies.  

Self-harm behaviours are also common among young people suffering from some forms of mental illness. Nearly 25 per cent of deaths among young people between 15-19 years old result from taking their own lives, and these tragic losses are preventable with proper counselling, which may help to address the fundamental issues the person is having. Open dialogue about mental wellness is necessary to help young people experiencing suicidal feelings find healthy coping mechanisms. 

The greatest tool in helping young people with mental health is intervening in their mental wellness as early as possible. Young people are in particular need of the watchful eye of others as they will not be able to address their issues on their own. Teaching young people to be open with their emotions and share their feelings is a key first step to preventing mental health issues from remaining unseen. Further traumas or negatively impactful events are to be considered case-by-case, and seeking professional help is often the right place to start. 

Mental Wellness Among Canadians  

According to the Canadian Mental Health Association, the rising cost of living has had a tremendous impact on the overall well-being of all Canadians. Specifically mentioned on their website, “Canadians affected by inflation are experiencing: higher self-rated anxiety (33 per cent) and depression (32 per cent), higher rates of a recent diagnosis of a mood disorder since the pandemic (14 per cent), and higher suicidal ideation (31 per cent).” 

The CMHA also mentioned that this year’s inflation has caused many Canadians to reduce money spent on health-related expenses. Every year, approximately 1.6 million Canadians report not receiving the mental health care they require. Often, this comes down to a matter of cost. 

The access Canadians have to free mental health services, as well as substance use health care, is minimal. Most, if not all, mental health-related care is not supported by the government outside of outreach programs intended for low-income Canadians who are often in dire situations economically. The CMHA predicts Canadians spend $1 billion annually on mental health care between counselling and psychotherapy. 

The Canadian Mental Health Association has been operating since 1918. It operates in every province in Canada and the Yukon Territory, serving more than 300 communities. Coast-to-coast operations have helped millions of Canadians through the toughest times. CMHA offers programs to “help prevent mental health problems and illnesses, support recovery and resilience, and enable all Canadians to flourish and thrive.” 

Across Canada, CMHA has over 7,000 staff and 11,000 volunteers. To help the Canadian Mental Health Association, click the link here

– Matthew Harrison, U Multicultural

Community Focus: Manitoba Filipino Seniors Group

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