Mental health concerns affect about 20% of Canadian children and young adults and are among the top reasons for hospitalizations in teenagers. These numbers were true prior to the COVID-19 pandemic and anecdotally mental health concerns have increased over the past two years.
Anxiety, depression, substance use and eating disorders are among the most common mental health concerns reported by children and young adults, and parents are often unaware of the true extent of the issue – more than half of parents rate their children’s mental health as better than their children would rate it themselves.
Our society has been preoccupied with a discussion of masks, vaccines and COVID-19 among children, but suicide and substance use remain a greater risk to children’s lives than COVID by a factor of 2.
What are signs to watch for?
- Changes in eating habits or changes in weight, particularly weight loss
- Withdrawing from friends, family or favourite activities
- Changes in sleeping patterns
- Declining performance in school
- Discussion of suicide or making preparations for a suicide attempt
Fortunately, there is help and early intervention may reduce the risk of suicide and long-term disability in children.
If you or your child is concerned about their mental health, please bring your child to see us. Several tools are available, including counselling, therapy and medications, and we can make necessary referrals to access the many mental health services available. Often, a combination approach is most effective.
Dr. Bing Wu