Canadian Mental Health Week: May 6-12

This week is Mental Health Week and Children’s Mental Health Week in Canada.

group of people holding hands together

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It’s a good time to consider all of the facets of mental health. Happily, I feel that families, communities, schools, organizations and governments are getting better at recognizing signs, symptoms and remedies.

Even though some stigma remains, more people understand that mental health challenges are common. In fact, according to the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health:

  • 1 in 5 people in Canada will personally face a mental health problem or illness
  • 8% of Canadians will experience major depression in their lives
  • Mental health affects people of all ages, education levels, incomes and cultures

Regarding kids, many wonder why suicide rates for children, teens and young adults seem to be increasing* and why more children (even those as young as 8) seem to be experiencing more stress than in generations past. What might the reasons be?

bed blanket female girl

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From reading, research and speaking with other parents and experts, here are three top-line theories:

The Sleep Factor

  • Children, teens and adults are getting far less sleep than in prior generations. Whether it’s due to the blue light from our devices, the lure of 24/7 streaming content, being overwhelmed with homework or answering emails, or parents not enforcing strict bedtimes for younger children, we all could use more shut-eye.
  • Sleep allows us to heal our bodies and minds and to recharge for the day to come. It also helps regulate breathing and blood pressure. Without consistent, regular sleep and sleep patterns we put extra stress on our mental health and well-being.

The Failure Factor

  • Over the past year, I’ve read more and more about how parents’ inability to let our children fail and experience disappointment is hindering their ability to be successful later in life.
  • While we may think we’re doing our kids a favor by protecting them from, say, losing a race or failing a test or not making the cheerleading team, it’s important that children understand how to fail. When a child gets a D on their math quiz or is not invited to the dance, she might learn how to do things differently next time and, at the same time, build resilience which can help her deal with future disappointment.

The Comparison Factor

  • Personally I think adults are just as at-risk of this as children or teens. In our social and social media-infused world, we can’t help but compare ourselves to our next door neighbour who just returned from a spontaneous trip to Italy or to our colleague who is taking a year off to write a novel.
  • I’m not at all against social media (in fact, I’m a huge fan) but it can be extremely detrimental when we (or our children) are feeling vulnerable. It’s difficult to remember that people are more than their social media profiles and that most only post the best of their lives – not the tedious chores or the endless amounts of homework or the fight they just had with their sibling.
  • Comparing ourselves to our friends, classmates, or colleagues can bring on feelings of anxiety, inadequacy, depression and doubt. For parents, talking to our kids about social media and its implications and limiting the use of personal devices and video gaming can be beneficial.

Do any of these theories about modern-day mental health resonate with you? Are you aware of your kids’ mental health on a regular basis? Do you speak with them about stress or social media or suicide? I’d love to learn about your own theories and advice.

Feel free to comment on this post or write to me.

Lisa

*Note: The web site linked to teen suicide includes some disturbing content

7 responses to “Canadian Mental Health Week: May 6-12

  1. I couldn’t agree more with what you are saying. I would also add in that, generally, we aren’t eating a healthy diet or getting enough activity in during the day. Sugary, processed foods and lack of movement only make depression worse. When we model these bad habits, our children are sure to copy them.

  2. Yes! I totally agree! I think electronic devices and social media are largely at fault; however, they in turn cause a lack of sleep for a lot of kids (especially teens) who are up late using them.
    When I think back to when I was young, there was NO television after 11:30 at night and zero devices. (I’m dating myself I know!) The screen turned to static and everyone went to bed. There was nothing to entertain until all hours of the night.
    It honestly scares me what this next generation of children growing up will be like from the mental effects of it. I know technology is here to stay and our kids needs to know how to handle it, but it’s difficult to use it in moderation when it’s so addicting.

  3. You have highlighted some really important points! I know for me it is a lack of sleep, especially as I find it hard to switch off!

  4. Lack of sleep makes so much sense! My kiddos aren’t old enough for social media yet (thank goodness), but we do talk about naming our feelings. Comparison and lack of sleep are my biggest triggers for anxiety.

  5. Pingback: The Resilience Fallacy | Kids & Mental Health

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