I came across a post on social media yesterday that discussed bullying and cyberbullying with youth and described youth that had committed suicide to get away from the bullying that was occurring. One individual (an adult) actually made this comment and I was stunned: “Mental illness in many cases starts early on in childhood development and left untreated manifests itself and grows like a virus. She could have found peace if given the opportunity. Remember, no one is 100%.”
The comment is in reference to a tween who ended her life because of bullying. What? What if she did reach out and no one helped her, took her seriously or brushed her off because they were busy. Or adults and friends chalked it up to normal tween and teen drama and behaviour?
And mental health issues left untreated grow like a virus? Who thinks that?
My response was: “I actually attended a webinar yesterday from NYU – Hassenfeld Children’s Hospital on Youth and Psychiatric symptoms and the stats are VERY low for a true mental illness or psychiatric diagnosis in youth. I have also worked with youth as a therapist. I do not totally agree with you” and I listed the stats below.
Clinical Threshold for mental health issues listed below for youth:
Schizophrenia: .5%- 1/2%
A lot of worrying symptoms that youth display are mood swings, stress induced anxiety and depressive symptoms that are somewhat normal for pre-teens/tweens and teens. Homework and educational demands, friendship demands, parental demands, extra-curricular activities, sports, etc.
Bullying or cyberbullying or a mix of the two that take place on a regular basis and are directed at any one youth for a stretch of time will have an effect and not a good one. It would be the same for adults as well. No youth or adult should be bullied or cyberbullied-the ones doing this are not healthy in whatever way that means for them. Bullies are often outsiders, looking to be popular, think they are better than everyone else, want to feel powerful, and that is really sad when you think about it…”
According to Youth Mental Health Stats Canada, 10-20% of youth, Canada wide are affected by a mental health illness or disorder, approximately 5% of male youth and 12% of female youth, age 12 to 19, have experienced a major depressive episode; suicide is the second leading cause of death for Canadians between the ages of 10 and 24.
According to the Mental Health Commission of Canada, an estimated 1.2 million children and youth in Canada are affected by mental illness—yet, less than 20 per cent will receive appropriate treatment. By age 25, approximately 20 per cent of Canadians will have developed a mental illness. Youth who are engaged in child and adolescent mental health services, and who require continued services, are also often not well supported as they prepare to enter the adult mental health system. This is because of a lack of available services and financial backing by the provinces.
According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, approximately 1 in 25 adults in the U.S.A.—9.8 million, or 4.0%—experiences a serious mental illness in a given year that substantially interferes with or limits one or more major life activities. Approximately 1 in 5 youth aged 13–18 (21.4%) experiences a severe mental disorder at some point during their life.
According to the National Center for Children in Poverty, adolescents’ developing brains, coupled with hormonal changes, make them more prone to depression and more likely to engage in risky and thrill-seeking behaviors than either younger children or adults. Approximately 20% of teenagers have a mental health disorder to be diagnosed. Between 20% and 30% of adolescents have one major depressive episode before they reach adulthood.
Suicide affects young people from all ages, races, genders, and socioeconomic groups, although some groups seem to have higher rates than others. Between 500,000 and one million young people ages 15 to 24, attempt suicide each year. Untreated mental health problems among adolescents often result in negative outcomes.
If anything, all these statistic easily showcase the need for more mental health services for youth. It they are helped at a younger age, it is possible to reduce symptoms, assists them in managing within school environments, home environments, and with normal teenage or tween issues.
My own kids and some of their friends discuss with me in very general terms teasing and mean behaviour that occurs not identifying who it is, and I always listen, encourage them to talk to their parents and educational staff.
Our role, our job as parents and concerned adults is to listen, to provide solutions, and to speak up for youth if needed and necessary.
As a mom, as a concerned adult, as a professional with a Masters in Social Work and 21 years of work experience behind me-it is my obligation to raise awareness of the topics and encourage change. More services are needed. More adults need to learn the signs and symptoms to look for and screen time needs to be limited with youth. They communicate online through apps, texts, messages, selfie photos, and more. Unlike my generation- Generation X, that grew up without all these electronics. I called my friends by phone, saw them at school and we spent time together face to face. Internet was not created yet, no cellphones, computers were super expensive and a huge desk top version.
Bullying occurred when I was in school, but it was usually a few comments to the ‘smart’ kids and being excluded from the ‘cool’ clique or there were physical fights. Times have changed.