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

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

Fire at the former Alpine Disposal, and now GFL recycling facility, on Hwy 22 South of Trail. Photo taken just before 6 p.m. Monday June 21. Photo: John Piccolo
Update: Industrial fire rages outside Trail on Monday

Photos: The fire is reported to be at the GFL recycling facility

“We all need to consider our lives and how we managed to make our way through society to achieve order and success and how it is that others end up in chaos.” Photo: Dave Lowe/Unsplash
‘There but for fortune, may go you and I … ‘

“Short stays on acute psychiatric units with minimal follow up care are not sufficient,” says Crain.

“Classes of 2020 and 2021 will have a remarkable distinction in history, and this will be their story to tell.” Photo: Tai’s Captures/Unsplash
‘Not sorry’

Letter to the Editor from Jennifer Sirges of Trail

Fruitvale Village Council outlined their Beaver Valley Middle School development plan to the community in September 2020. Photo: Jim Bailey
Province to fund Fruitvale affordable housing project

Lower Columbia Affordable Housing Society will manage construction of 28 new housing units

Kootenay forests are unusually dry for this time of year. Photo: Bill Metcalfe
On summer’s cusp, Kootenay forests are at record dry levels

Southeast Fire Centre says 4 months of unusually dry weather have had effect on the region’s forests

The border crossing into the United States is seen during the COVID-19 pandemic in Lacolle, Que. on February 12, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
VIDEO: Border quarantine to soon lift for fully vaccinated Canadians

Eligible travellers must still take multiple COVID-19 tests

Golden Ears Mountains, captured in May 2021. (Black Press Media files)
2nd year of day passes required for entry into 5 provincial parks launches in B.C.

Pilot program seeks to protect the environment by addressing visitor surges amid the COVID-19 pandemic

Lincoln Mckoen. (YouTube)
Anglican bishop of the central Interior resigns over sexual misconduct allegations

Lincoln Mckoen was elected as a bishop of the Territory of the People region last year

The former Kamloops Indian Residential School on the Tk’emlups te Secwépemc reserve. (Allen Douglas/Kamloops This Week)
Tk’emlups preparing for archaeological work at B.C. residential school site where remains found

The 215 graves are, to the band’s knowledge, undocumented deaths for which it is still collecting records

Fans watch the warm-up before Game 6 between the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Montreal Canadiens in NHL playoff hockey action Saturday, May 29, 2021 in Montreal. Quebec’s easing of COVID-19 restrictions will allow 2,500 fans to attend the game for the first time in fourteen months. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Two-thirds of Canadians say governments shouldn’t lift all COVID-19 restrictions

Poll reports Canadians who gained pandemic weight say they have gained 16 pounds on average

Paul Bernardo is shown in this courtroom sketch during Ontario court proceedings via video link in Napanee, Ont., on October 5, 2018. Teen killer and serial rapist Paul Bernardo is set for a parole hearing today. The designated dangerous offender, has been eligible for full parole for more than three years. Bernardo’s horrific crimes in the 1980s and early 1990s include for kidnapping, torturing and killing Kristen French and Leslie Mahaffy near St. Catharines, Ont. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Greg Banning
Killer rapist Paul Bernardo faces parole hearing today; victim families opposed

Designated dangerous offender has been eligible for full parole for more than three years.

People look over the damage after a tornado touched down in Mascouche, Que., north of Montreal, Monday, June 21, 2021. Dozens of homes were damaged and one death has been confirmed. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
One dead and extensive damage as tornado hits Mascouche, Que., north of Montreal

Damage reported in several parts of the city, and emergency teams dispatched to sectors hardest hit

Chilliwack secondary school’s principal is apologizing after a quote equating graduation with the end of slavery in the U.S. was included in the 2020-2021 yearbook. (Screenshot from submitted SnapChat)
B.C. student’s yearbook quote equates grad to end of slavery; principal cites editing error

Black former student ‘disgusted’ as CSS principal apologizes for what is called an editing error

Skeena MLA Ellis Ross. (Photo by Peter Versteege)
BC Liberal leadership candidate condemns ‘senseless violence’ of Okanagan church fires

Skeena MLA Ellis Ross says reconciliation isn’t about revenge for past tragedies

Most Read