Secondary: Mental Health
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Youth and mental health
April 2022

Mental health includes our emotional, psychological and social well-being, which means it affects how we think, feel, and act. It also helps determine how we handle stress in our lives, relate to others, and what choices we make. When we experience good mental health, it doesn’t mean we are always in a good mood, nor does it prevent the stresses of life from coming our way.  But, it does help us cope with them so we can continue to engage productively in our everyday lives.
Just like we know that taking care of our physical health is important to keep our bodies strong and healthy, it is also just as important to take care of our mental health. 70% of mental health disorders have onset in childhood or adolescence. By the time Canadians reach 40, half will have or have had a mental illness. 
mental health and culture
Culture can impact mental health in various ways because culture directly impacts an individual's view on certain ideas or behaviors. It can determine decisions to seek help for mental health issues, whether you believe in certain treatments, and more. Every culture has a different understanding and different feelings about mental health.
What is mental health?
 “We view mental health as just one piece of a person‘s overall health. This means there is no “health” without “mental health”.  Mental Health is more than just not having mental illness - mental health is an important resource for everyday life”. Kelty Mental Health

What is the difference between mental health distress and mental health disorder?

Distress can OFTEN be a normal and expected reaction (age appropriate fears, transitions and life changes, stressful experiences or events, new or unfamiliar situations)

Disorder is considered when there is SIGNIFICANT interference (home, school, social) or SIGNIFICANT distress that is not in the developmentally "normal" range. The video below provides more detailed information. 
What is the difference between mental health, mental distress and mental illness?
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The three most common mental health concerns for youth are:

Anxiety - 30% of youth at some time will experience anxiety
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder - just under 5% of BC children experience ADHD
Depression - 3.5% of BC youth experience at least 1 depressive episode

We know that everyone will experience the feeling of anxiety at some time, and coping with it is a part of life. There are also many legitimate reasons for all of us to be struggling with additional anxieties these days. However, for many teens, their fight, flight and freeze response are in hyperdrive, even when there is no real or even perceived threat.  This can often lead to avoidant behaviours and disconnecting from school, peers and activities. 
Recognizing Anxiety
When we‘re anxious, our thoughts tend to focus on all the bad things that might happen. Sometimes this can be useful because it helps us prepare to deal with the scary situation. However, sometimes all these anxious thoughts just paralyze us and make us want to run away or hide.

Where does anxiety come from?
Anxiety can be passed on genetically. If someone the immediate or extended family, like your mom, dad, grandma, or uncle, has had problems with anxiety, then you might be more likely to develop an anxiety problem.

Healthy habits to manage anxiety
The good news is that you can learn to manage your anxiety more effectively by implementing some simple coping strategies. Daily healthy habits can help make your symptoms more manageable so you can feel in control of your life again.

MindShift uses scientifically proven strategies based on Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) to help you learn to relax and be mindful, develop more effective ways of thinking, and use active steps to take charge of your anxiety. The Community forum enables youth to find and offer peer-to-peer support.

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Flight, Fight, Freeze - Anxiety Explained for Teens
attention deficit hyperactivity disorder
ADHD symptoms can vary by gender, type of ADHD, the environment, presence of other disorders and by individual strengths and struggles. Overall, teens with ADHD tend to display fewer of the hyperactivity symptoms associated with ADHD in younger children, but higher social and academic pressures can create new challenges.
Even if hyperactivity and impulsivity are not significant issues for your teen, symptoms associated with inattention and difficulty with organization can take a bigger toll in high school.  Looking for additional learning support  for organization at home and school are important strategies.
Research shows that about half of adolescents with ADHD  struggle with peer relationships. They may have a more difficult time picking up social cues, and impulsivity can lead to conflict. Try and keep an open dialogue about their friendships, and utilize counselling support to develop and enhance social skills. 

The teenage years tend to be an emotional rollercoaster, but those with ADHD are prone to more struggles with emotion regulation, which may result in greater highs and lows.
One way to support, is to help your youth develop cooling down strategies and coping tools.  Counsellors and community supports can help with these skills. 
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This video looks at the life of a person with a common form of ADHD, and delves into a list of symptoms to help raise awareness about this disorder and its effects on individuals due to atypical brain functions. 
Teen depression is a serious mental health problem that causes a persistent feeling of sadness and loss of interest in activities. It affects how your teenager thinks, feels and behaves, and it can cause emotional, functional and physical problems. Depression can occur at any time in life, and symptoms may be different between teens and adults.
Teen depression isn't a weakness or something that can be overcome with willpower — it can have serious consequences and requires long-term treatment. For most teens, depression symptoms ease with treatment such as medication and psychological counseling.

Depression symptoms can vary in severity, but changes in your teen's emotions and behavior may include the examples below
Feelings of sadness, which can include crying spells for no apparent reason
Frustration or feelings of anger, even over small matters
Feeling hopeless or empty
Irritable or annoyed mood
Loss of interest or pleasure in usual activities
Loss of interest in, or conflict with, family and friends
Low self-esteem
Feelings of worthlessness or guilt
Fixation on past failures or exaggerated self-blame or self-criticism
Extreme sensitivity to rejection or failure
Trouble thinking, concentrating, making decisions and remembering
Frequent thoughts of death, dying or suicide
Tiredness and loss of energy
Insomnia or sleeping too much
Changes in appetite — decreased appetite and weight loss, or increased cravings for food and weight gain
 Use of alcohol or drugs
 Agitation or restlessness — pacing, hand-wringing or an inability to sit still
Slowed thinking, speaking or body movements
Frequent complaints of  body aches and headaches
Social isolation
Poor school performance or frequent absences from school
Less attention to personal hygiene or appearance
Angry outbursts, disruptive or risky behavior, or other acting-out behaviors
Self-harm — for example, cutting, burning, or excessive piercing or tattooing
Making a suicide plan or a suicide attempt

It can be difficult to tell the difference between ups and downs that are just part of being a teenager and teen depression. 
Talk with your teen. Try to determine whether they seem capable of managing challenging feelings, or if life seems overwhelming.

If depression signs and symptoms continue, begin to interfere in your teen's life, or cause you to have concerns about suicide or your teen's safety, talk to a doctor or a mental health professional trained to work with adolescents. You can also start by connecting to a school counsellor.

Mental health literacy at school is a Canadian resource that was created by Dr. Stan Kutcher and Dr. Yifeng Wei. The primary goal is to offer this resource to teachers and students to educate and reduce stigma around the conversation of mental healthFor the past few years many of our secondary schools have been using this curriculum with students. 
Mental Health Literacy education supports students in having the knowledge, attitudes and competencies to help themselves and others if necessary.

Mental health literacy has four components:
- Understanding how to optimize and maintain good mental health
- Understanding mental disorders and their treatments
- Decreasing Stigma
- Enhancing help-seeking efficacy (knowing when and where to get help and having the skills necessary to promote self-care and how to obtain good care). 

April school poster
It’s important for youth to take care of themselves to get the most from life. There are plenty of ways for teens to take control of their mental health that don’t to cost a lot of money or take up too much time.

This poster offers students 9 simple and practical ways to look after their mental health.
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