Part I: Mental Health for Children and Youth – How to Get the Help You Need

Dr. David Smith says 13 per cent of B.C. youth experience a mental health issue every year – 83,700 children under age 19.

Dr. David Smith

*This article was written and contributed by Dr. David Smith, Okanagan Psychiatric services for Interior Health.

For children and teenagers in B.C., coping well with the demands of school work, busy schedules and social relationships in today’s chaotic world reflects resilient mental health. But some B.C. children and youth are unable to cope well with the daily stresses of their lives and the results can be debilitating or tragic.

An estimated 13 per cent of youth in B.C. each year experience a mental health issue – that means up to 83,700 children under the age of 19 in B.C. may be suffering. Studies show that receiving appropriate help at the right time may enable a child or youth to return to good health or prevent the escalation of symptoms, warding off larger crises or more chronic illnesses, and even at times saving young lives.

But unfortunately, the majority of youth experiencing a mental health issue, or their families, do not seek help. Why is this?

There are likely a number of key factors: youth and family may lack understanding about mental health issues or may be unable to recognize the symptoms of a mental health problem; they may not know how to access the right services, who to see, or how to navigate B.C.’s mental health system; they may be worried about possible stigma, or labelling, and are hoping it is simply a “phase” that will pass.

As an adolescent and adult psychiatrist working for the last 11 years in Interior Health (IH), I appreciate how frightening and worrying it can be for youth and families when a mental health issue arises. But I also know that the right help can make all the difference and that good recovery is possible even with some of the most serious of mental health concerns. And “help” does not always mean treatment with medication. In fact, many mental health problems in children and youth can be very successfully treated with other techniques, particularly Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), which, in essence, teaches skills to address the thoughts, feelings and behaviours that underlie a mental health problem.

Working with a group of mental health colleagues in the Interior and on Vancouver Island – including families with lived experience, mental health clinicians from the Ministry of Children and Family Development, health authority professionals, school counsellors, family doctors, paediatricians and others – we have come up with a series of short columns to run in Black Press’s newspapers and websites to help youth and families recognize and understand some common mental health concerns. Over the next few days and weeks in 10 articles, we will talk about issues like anxiety, depression, substance use, eating disorders, obsessive compulsive disorder, schizophrenia and family support. We will help you recognize the symptoms and know when and how to seek help. We will talk about successful skills, actions and treatments.

These columns, as well as running in your local paper and Black Press website, can also be found at www.sharedcarebc.ca so you can access them online or share with friends and family.

Numerous high quality websites are producing up-to-date information about a wide variety of mental health concerns and in each column, we will link you to online resources in B.C. for more information on each condition.

(A few excellent provincial sites to check out now include: openmindbc.ca; mindcheck.ca, forcesociety.ca, and keltymentalhealth.ca.

Next column, we will talk about anxiety.

Dr. David Smith is an adolescent and adult psychiatrist and the medical director of the Okanagan Psychiatric services for Interior Health. This series of columns on common child and youth mental health issues is a project of the Child and Youth Mental Health and Substances Use Collaborative.The Collaborative involves multiple individuals, organizations and ministries all working together to increase the number of children, youth, and their families receiving timely access to mental health services and support in the Interior Health and Vancouver Island regions. The Collaborative is jointly funded by Doctors of BC and the government of B.C.

Just Posted

Local soccer player Sydney Kelly receives prestigious Premier’s Award

The 18-year-old trained with UNBC’s soccer team while in high school

2018 marks 100 years since the end of World War I

Quesnel legion’s historian Doug Carey documents some of the atrocities of WWI

B.C. Legions in need of young members to continue aiding veterans into the future

Lest we forget what thousands of men and women did to fight for Canada’s freedoms – but without new membership, many Legion chapters face dwindling numbers

North Coast figure skater to star in Dancing On Ice

Carlotta Edwards learned to skate in Prince Rupert, before becoming a star with millions of viewers

Union pulls back on job action at Interior and northern mills

Legal strikes will discontinue for now as union is optimistic, vice president says

VIDEO: Marvel Comics’ Stan Lee dies

Marvel co-creator was well-known for making cameo appearances in superhero movies

Surging Rangers beat visiting Canucks 2-1

Goalie Lundqvist ties Plante on all-time wins list

VIDEO: Newcomer kids see first Canadian snowfall

Children arrived in Canada with their mother and two siblings last week from Eritrea

Calgary 2026 leader expects close vote in Winter Games plebiscite

Residents to choose in a non-binding vote on Tuesday whether they want city to bid on 2026 Olympics

Feds dropped ball with WWI anniversary tributes: historians

Wrote one historian: ‘Other than the Vimy Ridge celebration … I think they have done a very bad job’

Sides ‘far apart’ in Canada Post talks despite mediation, says union

The lack of a breakthrough means rotating strikes will resume Tuesday

Feds’ appeal of solitary confinement decision in B.C. to be heard

Judge ruled in January that indefinite such confinement is unconstitutional, causes permanent harm

B.C. health care payroll tax approved, takes effect Jan. 1

Employers calculating cost, including property taxes increases

Nunavut urges new plan to deal with too many polar bears

Territory recommends a proposal that contradicts much of conventional scientific thinking

Most Read