What are the Mental Health Issues Affecting Youth? 

A child’s life can be a never-ending array of ups and downs and heartbreak. While these life phases are inevitable and accepted as a normal part of growing up, there are instances when shifts in mood and behavior may be indicators of a larger, more daunting issue: mental illness.  

As adults, it may be difficult to imagine children suffering from such difficult challenges, yet the number of young people today experiencing mental health problems is on the rise. Close to 20% – one in five – young people are actively dealing with a mental health issue.  

Types of mental health issues in youth 

  • Anxiety disorders
  • Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Conduct disorder
  • Depression
  • Eating disorders
  • Psychosis
  • Schizophrenia
  • Suicide

Of these, anxiety disorders most commonly affect children and teens, with six percent experiencing them at some point. Suicide, the most concerning of mental health issues, is the number one non-accidental cause of death among Canadian youth. The Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) reported that 14% of high-school students contemplated suicide in the past year, and 4% of high-school students reported attempting suicide in the province of Ontario. In the UK the statistics are just as grim. Reports from the Office for National Statistics show that suicides in females aged 10 to 24 have soared by 83% in six years. Communication through digital media about suicidal behavior is an emerging concern for this age group.  

Without question, our youth and teens are facing stressors and pressures in their lives which are manifesting in ways that go well beyond “growing pains”.  

Only one in four will get the help they need, and this can create a disruptive ripple effect. The mental illness makes its way into the relationships, academics, and physical health of the child. This, in turn, can negatively impact their future development, their overall mental and physical well-being, and their perceptions of success in their adult lives.  

It’s crucial that we eliminate the stigma and fear surrounding mental healthStarting helpful dialogues will benefit youth now, and in the years to come. 

Further readings and resources