The Mental Illness Fight
As it diminishes in its status as a taboo topic, the conversation surrounding mental health is gaining momentum. Struggles faced by people of all ages are in the spotlight. The ever-increasing pressures and troubles of teenagers and young adults are more and more apparent. Anxiety and depression are on the rise. Thoughts of suicide abound. Futures appear increasingly dire. Yet as mental health becomes an alarming concern, so too has the response become a more powerful force.
Many disorders first become apparent for youth aged 18 to 24, and approximately 80 percent of Ontario residents in that age bracket are enrolled in universities or colleges. A recent study by the Ontario University and College Health Association (OUCHA) found that 65 percent of students felt overwhelmed by anxiety and 46 percent were so depressed that they had difficulty functioning. These numbers are noticeably higher from 2013, when there were at 57 and 40 percent respectively. More alarmingly, there were three percent and 0.7 percent increases in suicidal thoughts and suicide attempts.
Increasing tuition costs and tougher job markets have created mounting pressures on teenagers embarking on their post-secondary journeys. There have been additional calls to increase the number of therapists and psychiatrists on campuses. Ontario provided a significant investment to aid post-secondary institutions in 2013. The OUCHA is also looking to work with campuses to improve mental health services.
Institutions are finding more and more ways to provide help. Carleton University houses the Bounce Back program, which provides mentors to undergrads struggling with their grades. The Carleton University Students’ Association is investing in programs such as a mental health awareness week and a health and wellness program that includes peer-counselling. The University of Ontario Institute of Technology features an “Are You Okay” link on their website for struggling students.
In addition, mental health programs operated by students are a valuable resource. King’s Mental Health Awareness Collective, part of the University of King’s College in Halifax, uses posters featuring real students afflicted with mental health issues along with the statement “I am not my mental illness.” The goal is to encourage those with similar afflictions to be open with others about it and take steps to receive help.
For teens and students with anxiety and depression, it is crucial to balance external aides with internal steps to cope and improve. Anxiety and depression can often be exacerbated by specific factors, such as stress over grades or employment. Being able to pinpoint these triggers in your own situation is an important step. Yet mental illness also often appears seemingly without rhyme or reason, and in those cases it takes even more self-initiative to realize it and take steps to fight it.
Accepting the harsher employment and school conditions compared to the previous generation can be difficult for many teenagers and young adults. These factors, coupled with increasing acceptance of mental illness concerns, have brought mental health to the forefront of many conversations. The increase in stressors comes at a time where there is also an increase in help. Focusing on the latter is extremely important in overcoming your own situation. Fighting back against mental health is never easy, but it is always possible.
Lunau, Kate. “The mental health crisis on campus.” Maclean’s. http://www.macleans.ca/education/uniandcollege/the-mental-health-crisis-on-campus/
Pfeffer, Amanda. “Ontario campus counsellors say they’re drowning in mental health needs.” CBC News. http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/ottawa/mental-health-ontario-campus-crisis-1.3771682
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