Can you hear me?
The Inner Voices of Children & Youths
By M.L., BCG Administrative & Community Engagement Officer
"Am I going through a phase? People keep saying that I will get over how I feel. So I tell myself everyday that my terrible feelings will just go away but they don't. Sometimes I feel like everything is hopeless, and there's nothing I can do about my situation. I feel like I'm going to implode."
It may often be difficult to determine if a young person is going through normal life challenges or mental health struggles. A young person who is facing mental health struggles may be mislabelled as "attention seeking" or simply "acting out". When a student shows signs of motivational and academic issues, they may also be accused of being lazy. However their falling grades may be an indication that they are undergoing emotional distress or struggling with learning difficulties. After all, roughly 40% adults are not aware of the"signs and symptoms of a significant mental health problem" among children and youth.
According to Ontario Ministry of Children and Youth Services, the most common mental health issue amongs children and youth are: ADHD, Anxiety, Depression, Mood Disorder, Schizophrenia and Eating Disorders.
Recognizing General Signs of Common Mental Health Issues
Every so often a young person would undergo difficult times. The main differences between mental health problems and normal life struggles are loosely determined by three main categories: Mood & Behaviours, Changes & Impairment, as well as Duration. What general signs and symptoms of mental illnesses and disorders should we be looking at?
Mood & Behaviours:
• feeling sad, irritable, easily frustrated, excessively anxious
• unusual mood swing, impulsivity, distorted thinking
• over active, easily distractable
• preoccupied with food and weight, extremely sensitive about body image
• prolonged or intense temper tantrums, aggressive or violent behaviour
Changes & Impairment
• struggling with grades and academic performances
• lack energy or motivation, changes in sleeping patterns
• obsession with body image
• (attempt to) injuring oneself, substance abuse
• withdrawn, avoiding friends/family
• losing interest in things they used to enjoy
Most mental health specialists agree that apart from crisis situations, a person may be in need of mental health assistance if they demonstrate a combination of these symptoms for at least 2-3 months. While some signs may occur in different periods of a young person's life, professionals generally agree that a combination of mood, behaviours and impairment must be present in order to be considered as mental health issues. However it may still be beneficial for young people to speak with someone they can trust about their struggles to maintain mental wellness.
Maffy is the Administrative & Community Engagement Officer of Burnaby Counselling Group. Having to overcome hurdles of her own, she had grown to become more aware of mental health struggles especially among young people. Maffy also enjoys learning about mental health topics as well as social & charitable programs in her spare time.