Youth Mental Health Blog

Written By Charlotte Schwarz

file000536909779In this third youth mental health blog, I’d like to talk about serious mental illness and its impact on people. Mental illnesses such as schizophrenia, bi-polar disorder, and personality disorders have a huge impact on people’s lives and the lives of those around them. People don’t often know how to interact with others experiencing crises related to these conditions and there are many misconceptions about these illnesses.  People living with these conditions can feel deserted by family and friends who don’t know how to help them. They can feel ostracized because they don’t fit in with their peers in society. And they can feel disoriented when their illness robs them of the control they try to have over their emotional and physical responses.  People living with these conditions face severe stigma and isolation. But there are things that can be done to help.

It is important that we start to encourage a frank and open conversation about mental health from a young age. 75% of mental illness first occurs in people under the age of twenty five. The more children and youth know about mental health and wellness, the more they will understand and respect their own needs and the needs of those around them.

People struggling with mental illness also have trouble finding the specialized help they need. Often the first point of contact a youth with mental illness has with a mental health professional is after they have entered the criminal justice system. More has to be done to connect children and youth with the supports available to them long before they find themselves in custody. In November, David’s Youth Round Table hosted a youth mental health forum to help do exactly that. They brought high school and university aged youth together with mental health support personnel from across the city to talk about the programs and opportunities available.

The other change that needs to occur is financial. David has repeatedly asked the Ministers of Health and Finance to place a greater priority on mental health in the upcoming budget process. The Canadian Mental Health Commission reported that major savings can be found in the health system by reducing the incidence of mental illness, even if only by 10%. Currently we spend only 3% of our health budget on mental health. A small increase could yield huge savings down the road. Currently in New Brunswick, that numbers sits at 3%. More needs to be done. It is an injustice for the children and youth that suffer from mental illness to not receive the help and support that they need.

Finally, it is important to realize that people suffering from schizophrenia, bi-polar disorder, and personality disorders need medication and treatment to manage their illness and that they will have good and bad days, just like people suffering from any chronic disease. If they have the resources to access the proper treatment and medication they can live happy and fulfilling lives as well as maintain their relationships with friends and family. It is extremely important that we work towards this goal not only in our province, but across the country.