Youth Mental Health in Simcoe Muskoka

Youth Mental Health in Simcoe Muskoka

Youth mental health: Breaking down the stigma

On Thursday June 23rd the South Simcoe community came together to talk about the youth mental health crisis. It was an evening of powerful conversation among parents, educators, advocates, law enforcement, service providers, community partners, local businesses, and youth.

Connecting the Dots

The screening of the Connecting the Dots Film and panel discussion was a step towards breaking down the stigma surrounding youth mental health struggles, and created a dialogue around more accessible, relevant, and timely support. Funds raised during this event will support YouthCALL Service Link, a free live-answer telephone service for vulnerable youth in South Simcoe.

If you watch the film trailer above, the first scene stopped every viewer in their tracks. It was a poignant moment in the evening when the realization of just how critical this issue is, began to sink in. Most people are aware that our youth are struggling, however the rates of anxiety, depression and suicide in this age group are alarming.

Globally, suicide is the #1 health related cause of death for youth.

Youth Mental Health in Simcoe Muskoka

The statistics below will help to paint a picture of the mental health struggles the youth in our region are facing. They were gathered in a pre-pandemic environment and while the latest numbers aren’t available, we do know that the impact of social isolation and increased social media use is contributing to increased rates of anxiety and other mental illness in youth:

  • Young people aged 15 to 24 are more likely to experience mental illness and/or substance use disorders than any other age group, however are less likely to receive the appropriate treatment. (Source: CAMH).
  • According to the 2019 Ontario Student Drug Use and Health Survey, 20% of Simcoe Muskoka students (Grades 7-12) reported that they seriously considered attempting suicide in the past year. This statistic was up significantly compared to 2015 and continues to increase. (Source: SMDHU Health Stats).
  • Less than half (43%) of Simcoe Muskoka students (Grades 7-12) reported their mental health as excellent or very good. (Source: SMDHU Health Stats).
  • 31% of Simcoe Muskoka students reported their mental health as fair or poor. (Source: SMDHU Health Stats).
  • These statistics increase significantly among queer and trans youth:
        • In a 2011 survey conducted by the Gilbert Centre, 23.6% of LGBT youth have had thoughts of ending their life and 32.7% are dealing with anxiety, depression, or self-harm. (Source: The Simcoe County LGBT Youth Needs Assessment Report).
        • Just over 80% of trans youth surveyed in Simcoe Muskoka have experienced suicidal thoughts; with 56% having experienced suicidal thoughts in the past 12 months.
        • 44% of the trans community in NSM had attempted suicide. Of those who reported having attempted suicide, most had made multiple attempts. (Source: Transgender Health Needs in Simcoe Muskoka Report).

The Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit and the Gilbert Centre are excellent resources for details on the current state of youth mental health across our region.

Suicidal ideation in the past year (grades 1-12), Simcoe Muskoka and Ontario
Self-rated mental health for students in Simcoe Muskoka

Prevention & Education

Prevention was a major theme in the discussion that followed the screening of Connecting the Dots. Prevention includes education, advocacy, and taking steps to ensure resources are accessible to youth before they get to a crisis situation.

Education: Talking about mental health openly at school and at home will help break down the stigma and encourage individuals to seek support when they are struggling. Additionally, offering peer support training to help youth recognize those around them who are struggling, and providing guidance on how to access supports and services.

Advocacy: The dramatic increase of mental health issues in our youth proves that we aren’t doing enough. More funding, more programs and more education are all needed – collectively our voices can advocate for change.

Accessible Resources & Safe Spaces: Youth need safe spaces where they can feel supported and comfortable asking for help. YouthCALL Service Link is a starting place for youth where there is no judgement, no drama, only help. Youth are connected with a Community Service Navigator who help with creating and implementing a plan to support their goals and address their current needs.

Rae Tuckey from the Gilbert Centre indicated that a safe space could make a significant difference for queer and trans youth; the rate of suicide consideration dropped from 71% to 7% when they had a safe space they could go where they feel supported.

Jodi Greenstreet from WOWLiving pointed out that youth need stability before they can focus on their mental health. A safe place to sleep, food security, and safety. If we can address these intersecting issues first, youth will be able to better respond to mental health support.

Social Media & Technology

Technology is a double-edged sword for youth. Rae Tuckey from the Gilbert Centre shared successes they’ve had by providing safe online spaces for LGBTQ+ youth through Discord servers and other technology. It has made their life-saving services more accessible to those that need it and they’ve seen huge growth in their programs (from servicing 30 youth to now over 300).

Social media can provide connections with others and an escape from real-world stressors. However, many studies have observed links between high levels of social media use and depression or anxiety symptoms.

There was significant discussion around how to allow safe access to technology. Meaning, taking steps like setting limits around social media usage, educating youth about privacy, sleep disruption, online bullying, unrealistic views of other people’s lives, and peer pressure.

There’s help available

As your United Way Simcoe Muskoka, we will continue to advocate for our youth, amplify voices and provide education to break down the stigma and open conversations. We are a solutions-based charity and are committed to investing in initiatives that support the well being of local youth, like YouthCALL Service Link.

YouthCALL is a no drama, no judgement support service that connects youth to the support they need. By supporting YouthCALL, you are helping vulnerable youth find support for suicide prevention, housing, substance use, employment, education and so much more.

Based on feedback from the youth in our community, the program is expanding to include a youth DBT (dialectical talk therapy) group, partnering with CMHA to run a mindfulness program for youth, and establishing a youth advisory to help guide the future of the program.

If you or someone you know is in need of support, YouthCALL can be reached a variety of ways:

705-790-2338 (call or text)
Find them on Instagram

Discord: Connect2Register by email/text/phone.

YouthCALL Service Link Poster

We would like to extend a big thank-you to our discussion panel moderator Amanda Fellows from YouthCALL Service Link, and the incredible panelists:

  • Noemi Weiss (Film Director, Connecting the Dots)
  • Rae Tuckey (Program Manager, Gilbert Centre)
  • Jodi Greenstreet (WOWLiving & Director, CrossTrainers)
  • Laiba Sohail (Youth Ambassador, YouthCALL Service Link)

This event could not have happened without our sponsors:

  • Haddon Financial (Film Sponsor)
  • Holland Street Veterinary (Film Sponsor)
  • Addictive Design (Reception Sponsor)
  • Debbie Moran, Desjardins Insurance Agent
  • Doreen Pennell, Isagenix Independent Associate

YouthCALL is a critical resource for the youth in South Simcoe. With a Community Service Navigator on their side, individuals are connected with the resources they need to meet whatever life throws at them.

Please consider making a donation to support this life-changing service.

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