Talking to our kids about mental health

With new sneakers and school supplies, we send our kids off to school, reminding them to look both ways before crossing the street, to play safe and have fun.

School is a welcoming, inclusive environment for the majority of kids, but, unfortunately, it’s not for all. Some become anxious or stressed just thinking about school, often coming up with reasons why they can’t go, like not feeling well.

Mental illness affects people from all walks of life and all ages, including children, yet we never talk about it.

As children age, their anxiety surrounding school may increase. They may feel pressure to make the team, achieve good grades and fit in with their peers. For some, the anxiety and pressure affect how they function at school and home.

Suicide is the second leading cause of death for youth between the ages of 10 and 24, yet we never talk about it.

Many youth keep this stress and angst to themselves rather than talk to their peers, teachers or parents. The fear of what people will say, of being judged and the fear of losing friends and family often prevents them from getting the help they need.

Stigma is the number one reason people living with mental illness do not seek help, yet we never talk about it.

To add to this, few parents are prepared to recognize the signs of mental health problems in their son or daughter, or even know what to look for, while young children are expected to grow out of their problems.

Some 70% of adults living with mental illness say their symptoms developed before they were 18 years old, yet we never talk about it.

Bringing mental health into the open

To start the conversation about mental health in our workplace, we recently invited Youth Speak to our Dartmouth location. Developed by Halifax-based Laing House, a peer support organization for youth with mental illness, Youth Speak is a youth-led workshop that addresses stress, mental illness, available resources and stigma.

Through the Medavie Health Foundation, we’re partnering with Laing House in bringing Youth Speak to schools, universities, businesses and community groups across Nova Scotia and beyond.

Laing House is just one organization helping to increase our knowledge and understanding of mental illness, just as more and more schools are integrating mental health initiatives in the classroom.

With one in five Canadians affected by mental illness, it’s time to bring mental health into the open.

So when you’re having your next family chat at the dinner table, why not add mental health to the discussion?

As Cindy Wheeler, Laing House Youth Speak Coordinator, said during our workplace discussion, “It’s never too early to talk to our kids about mental health.”

Be sure to talk about mental health.

Watch a short video about the Medavie Health Foundation and our partnering with Laing House to support Youth Speak.

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