More than fifteen million children in North America have psychiatric learning disorders, but few of them will be identified due to stigma, lack of awareness, and misinformation. This week, people are coming together to recognize the National Children’s Mental Health Awareness Week (occurring in the United States and Canada). The theme of this year’s week is ‘Youth Overcoming Trauma’ particularly relevant given the Government of Ontario’s recent passage of Bill 13; the Accepting Schools Act.
Mental health is becoming epidemic among youth, and an important part of why is the increased prevalence of bullying in schools. There are children in schools right here in Toronto, who are victims of bullying. Sometimes they may be impacted mentally or emotionally. Other times they may be impacted physically; and, too many times they will have to face both. Unfortunately many that find themselves victims will already be impacted by a mental health issue.
Statistics demonstrate that one in five students at the TDSB is impacted by a mental health issue, and only one in six of those students will get the help they need. The first symptoms of mental illness generally appear between the ages of fourteen and twenty-four; which is why early intervention is so critical. However, recovery is possible with proper consultation and treatment. Becoming a victim of bullying will only make this process more difficult.
With that in mind, this coming week has become more important than ever. To promote Children’s Mental Health Week, Torontonians are encouraged to connect with their locals schools to discuss plans for the week.
It is time for Torontonians to come together; as parents; as neighbours; as aunts and uncles; as friends, to address children’s mental health issues head on. When one in five of our children are affected by some form of mental health issue, there is a problem. When children are considering ending their lives because the bullying has become too much, there is a problem. When one of the three parties in the Ontario Legislative Assembly votes against a landmark piece of anti-bullying legislation, there is a problem.
It is time to end the stigma of discussing mental health. It is time to actually demonstrate how important children truly are. Their lives may very well depend on it.