International Youth Day: Youth and Mental Illness

August 12 is International Youth Day, a day endorsed by the United Nations General Assembly in 1999 in a resolution upon the recommendation by the World Conference of Minsters Responsible for Youth.  This year’s theme is “Youth and Mental Health.”

The Public Service Alliance of Canada as a union has been a relentless advocate for youth welfare and employment, workplace health and safety – including mental health -- and work-life balance.  We are, therefore, in complete support of this year’s theme for International Youth Day and call on all our members to stand in solidarity with youth on this day. 

According to the World Health Organization, most mental health problems & disorders start during adolescence and continue into adulthood with severe emotional and social consequences for individuals and families if they are not treated.  Youth with mental health conditions can experience stigma and discrimination, which can lead to isolation and away from seeking professional help.  Suicide rates among young people have been increasing to such an extent that they are now the group at highest risk in a third of both developed and developing countries.

Based on research and the work of the Canadian Mental Health Association:

  • It is estimated that 10-20% of Canadian youth are affected by a mental illness or disorder – the single most disabling group of disorders worldwide.
  • Today, approximately 5% of male youth and 12% of female youth, age 12 to 19, have experienced a major depressive episode.
  • The total number of 12-19 year olds in Canada at risk for developing depression is a staggering 3.2 million.
  • Once depression is recognized, help can make a difference for 80% of people who are affected, allowing them to get back to their regular activities.
  • Mental illness is increasingly threatening the lives of our children; with Canada’s youth suicide rate the third highest in the industrialized world.
  • Suicide is among the leading causes of death in 15-24 year old Canadians, second only to accidents; 4,000 people die prematurely each year by suicide.
  • Schizophrenia is youth’s greatest disabler as it strikes most often in the 16 to 30 year age group, affecting an estimated one person in 100.
  • Surpassed only by injuries, mental disorders in youth are ranked as the second highest hospital care expenditure in Canada.
  • In Canada, only 1 out of 5 children who need mental health services receives them.

The PSAC and its members will continue to advocate for youth and mental health and to demand that the federal Conservative government and all provincial and territorial governments drop their austerity agenda and provide more resources to health care, jobs and youth services.  We urge young workers to get politically active and to go out and vote, especially in the upcoming 2015 federal election, and help make the necessary changes to important national issues like health care.

We also encourage our members and young workers to commemorate International Youth Day by getting involved in the Public Service International’s online campaign running from August 12 to September 12, 2014, to raise awareness about youth and mental health and to help get rid of stigma and discrimination around mental health.

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August 12, 2014
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