Talking about youth mental health

1 in 5 youth suffering from mental health conditions do not receive the treatment they need.
1 in 5 youth suffering from mental health conditions do not receive the treatment they need.

January 28th marks Bell Let’s Talk Day – an initiative to break down barriers associated with mental illness. Bell will be donating 5 cents for every tweet using the hashtag #BellLetsTalk, as well as for Facebook image shares, text messages and mobile calls. United Way of Calgary and Area supports mental health initiatives in our community, particularly those that support youth. We spoke to Jill Wyatt, Vice President Community Investments and Collaborations at United Way, to get her take on why mental health matters.

 Mental health does not discriminate. It can affect anyone – regardless of age, gender, race or socio-economic background.   Before joining United Way, I was a high school principal and agency executive director who saw and experienced firsthand the issues that youth face with respect to mental health.

  • 10-20% of Canadian youth are affected by a mental illness or disorder – the single most disabling group of disorders worldwide.
  • 1 in 5 of those youth suffering from mental health conditions do not receive the treatment they need to help combat and overcome the barriers they face. The pain and the isolation that many children suffer from as they struggle to be accepted, to succeed and to be considered somebody of value has an impact on their future development and success.
  • As troubling as that sounds we can make an impact on the lives of youth. Once depression is recognized, help can make a difference for 80% of people who are affected, allowing them to get back to their regular activities.

Initiatives like Bell Let’s Talk help overcome the stigma associated with mental illness, allowing for open and honest dialogue and just as important – public understanding and education.

United Way works closely with 20 agencies and initiatives that help youth and their families deal with mental health issues.  We are fortunate to work with organizations like Woods Homes and the University of Calgary’s Faculty of Social Work to complete research in the area of youth mental health. Together we are developing new ways to ensure we are taking the best steps to address this issue. We all benefit when Calgarians have access to the support they need.

Kids are the future of our city, and the contributions made in 2014 will connect families and individuals with supportive networks and resources. Calgarians care so much about the success of our children and youth, and the more we talk about issues like mental health, the better we can support those who are struggling.

* All mental health stats are from the CMHA website: http://www.cmha.ca/media/fast-facts-about-mental-illness/

Jill Wyatt is the Vice President of Community Investments and Collaborations at United Way of Calgary and Area. Jill is passionate about community building and is a driving force behind changing social conditions and creating opportunities for individuals, families and communities.