Does this sound familiar?
“Nobody could possibly understand how I feel.” “If I start to cry, I’m sure I’ll never stop.” “I’m so bad that no one could ever like me.” “If I don’t hit something, I’m going to explode.”
“If people knew what I was thinking, they would say that I’m crazy.” “I try as hard as I can but I just don’t understand things like I used to.” “My family is driving me crazy!”
“I just don’t enjoy anything anymore.” “I wish that I could just stop feeling.”
Canadian adolescents, like teens throughout the world, are at a high risk for mental illness. Research has shown that in Ontario alone, about one of five youth aged four-16 suffer from some type of psychiatric disorder.
In the United States, adolescents represent the only age group where there continues to be an increase in mortality rate.
Combined, the top three causes of death—accidents, suicide, and homicide—account for 75 percent of the deaths among adolescents.
Professional mental health care resources reach no more that one out of six children and adolescents in Canada.
It is important to better understand what is going on with our youth, why they are at risk, and how we can try to better address the needs of adolescents with psychiatric disorders.
< *c>What is mental illness?
Mental illness and mental disorders are not terms easy to define. Misunderstandings lead to misuse and abuse of the terminology, and help to reinforce myths—and even prevent people from getting help when it is really needed.
In general, mental illness refers to clinically-significant patterns of behavioural or emotional functioning that are associated with some level of distress, suffering (pain, death), or impairment in one or more areas of functioning (e.g., school, work, social, and family interactions).
At the basis of this impairment is a behavioural, psychological, or biological dysfunction, or a combination of these.
A number of myths surround child, adolescent, and adult mental illness. Society can go a long way to destigmatizing mental illnesses by having a better understanding of the mental health issues.
•Myth: People with a mental illness are psycho, dangerous, and have to be locked away.
•Fact: Many individuals with a mental illness can have difficulty coping with day-to-day living. When in great distress, such individuals are at a greater risk of harming themselves than others.
•Myth: People with a mental illness never get better.
•Fact: With the right kind of help, many people with a mental illness do recover and go on to lead healthy, productive, and satisfying lives.
•Myth: You can tell if someone has a mental illness by looking in his or her eyes.
•Fact: Although there are many signs and symptoms for when someone may be developing a mental illness, diagnosis is a difficult task best undertaken by health professionals.
Quick judgments and stereotypes are poor substitutes for comprehensive assessments by professionals.
•Myth: Only crazy people see shrinks.
•Fact: People of all ages and all walks of life seek help from a variety of mental health professionals including psychiatrists. Seeking out and accepting help are signs of coping and of preventing situations from getting worse.
•Myth: If you talk about suicide, you won’t attempt it.
•Fact: Suicidal comments have to be taken seriously as they often lead to plans, attempts, or completions.
Does this sound familiar?