Statements & Speeches

Child and Youth Mental Health

May 4, 2010

Honourable senators, mental health challenges affect one out of every five of Canada’s children and youth. This amounts to more than two million young people. Another way of looking at it is that, in every Canadian classroom, four to five students have mental health challenges.

However, only one in six children and youth ever receive treatment or services. This lack of treatment is due both to a lack of mental health services as well as the stigma associated with mental illness.

Honourable senators, mental illness and physical illness are not perceived in the same way. When a parent has a child with cancer or a heart condition, they are met with support and resources. However, when a son or daughter is suffering from depression there is often a fear or shame associated with reaching out for help.

There are walkathons and telethons in support of cancer and heart disease, but not yet for suicide prevention, mental health promotion or mental illness prevention. Why is that?

More than 70 per cent of adults living with mental health challenges developed their symptoms in childhood or early adolescence. It is important that supports and services are in place to provide the help needed, especially for youth early in their lives, to prevent or reduce the likelihood of more serious problems as individuals grow older. We should not forget mental health promotion programs, which help to sensitize and educate youth, their families, teachers and friends.

No one is immune — no matter where they live, what their age is, or what they do in life. Good health is not possible without good mental health.

Do honourable senators know that in the 1800s, the colour green was used to identify people labelled “insane”? The children’s mental health community is now using the colour green, but with a completely different focus. Green signifies new life, new growth and new beginnings.

Honourable senators, please join me in showing your support of child and youth mental health by wearing a green ribbon this week.