Mental Health & Depression

Watch for the four symptoms of youth depression

The school year can be a stressful time for parents and youth alike. In Canada, data show approximately five per cent of males and 12 per cent of females aged 12 to 19 have experienced a major depressive episode.


Here are four symptoms to look out for, from the Partners for Mental Health’s parent guide:

1. Loss of interest in life and activities

If your youth shows a lack of interest in day-to-day events, a negative attitude or an unwillingness to partake in activities they usually enjoy, they may be facing a mental health problem or illness, such as depression.

2. Change in behaviours (eating/sleeping)

Changes in sleeping and eating patterns may also be a sign that an issue exists.

Symptoms can include anything from overeating, to not eating enough, to sleeping long hours, or sleeping very rarely.

3. Use of drugs or alcohol

An increase in reckless behaviour, including drug and alcohol use, may also be a sign of a mental health problem or issue. Check in with your kids and make sure they have a healthy attitude toward drugs and alcohol.

4. Changes in personality

If you notice that your youth has experienced a drastic shift in personality, or sense of low self-esteem, it may be more than just the typical adolescent mood swing.

More information is available within the free parent guide from the national charity partners for Mental Health at

Jeff Moat is the President of Partners for Mental Health, an organization that seeks to transform the way Canadians think about, act towards and support mental health and people living with a mental illness.


Six tips when talking to your teen about mental health

Living with youth can be stressful for parents. Often they seem to change overnight, from friendly and agreeable children to difficult strangers.

In the adolescent years, the brain is experiencing a lot of changes, and youth may be less able to manage emotions, make good judgements and control impulses.

Most of the time, this is just a natural part of growing up. Young people are simply searching for their own personal identity.

Sometimes, however, there are signs that can point to something more serious, such as ADHD, anxiety or depression. Mental illness, which data show affects one in every five youth in Canada, can prevent a young person from per-forming in school or making friends, and in some instances, may lead to depression and even thoughts of suicide.

Equally alarming are the reports showing that three out of four children and youth with a mental health problem or illness will not receive treatment. So now is the time to open the door to a conversation about youth mental health. Here are six things parents can do:

1. Demonstrate that you value and accept them for who they are.

2. Build in special time together every day.

3. Try asking them questions and listening without judgement.

4. Try to eat together whenever possible – mealtimes are good times to talk and listen – and be sure to avoid allowing family members to email, text, or watch TV during this time.

5. Boost their self-confidence by supporting good decision-making, assertiveness, coping skills and perseverance. Help your youth create a wider network of support and develop strong relationships with others, from hanging out with friends to joining team sports or participating in other activities.

6. Try to avoid involving them in adult problems.