Young people hold the promise of potential and hope – in their own lives, for their families and in the future of society. Sadly, too many of these teens and young adults may not have the opportunity to fulfill their potential because emotional or mental health problems or substance abuse can significantly alter the course of their lives.
The incidence of mental disorders in young people is the highest of any age group. One of five youth in B.C. will experience a mental disorder serious enough to cause significant distress and impair their ability to function at home, at school, and with their peers.
The evidence is clear. Mental and substance use disorders are the primary health issues for young people in their teen years and early 20s. The onset of disorders such as depression, anxiety, psychosis and substance misuse is common between the ages 12-26. Half of all lifetime cases of mental disorders begin by age 14, and 75 per cent have begun by age 24, although they are often detected later in life.
Substance abuse often derails teens’ and young adults’ lives from their tracks. Research tells us that youth aged 15-24 are the most likely group to suffer from substance dependence issues. Approximately one out of every three individuals between the ages of 15-24 exceeds Health Canada’s low-risk drinking guidelines. Approximately one out of every two individuals between the ages 18-24 reports monthly heavy drinking, and the 15-17 age range is when an increased use of cannabis is reported.
Mental and substance abuse disorders hit hard while young people are at the most vulnerable time in their lives – developmentally and emotionally. Tragically, young people are at the greatest risk of not receiving the support they need, at a time when they need it the most. Over 60 per cent of youth who experience a mental disorder or have substance abuse issues don’t seek professional health because they are poorly informed or afraid of being stigmatized with a mental disorder diagnosis.
We can change this situation for many young people through early intervention. This means recognizing risk factors and early warning signs of persistent anxiety, stress, depression and problematic substance abuse, and then mobilizing families to head off emerging problems. In the Agassiz Harrison community, there are several sources of professional help. School counsellors and health professionals at the Agassiz Community Health Centre are two places to seek help. Child and Youth Mental Health Services, located on Pioneer Avenue, can be contacted by calling 604-796-1044 or after hours at 604-310-1234. The Youth Suicide Prevention Worker can be reached by phone at 604-796-2585 or by cell at 604-798-6161.
This series will continue by exploring some of the more common disorders afflicting our youth.
(Submitted by Agassiz Community Health)