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Canadian Mental Health Association says anxiety levels for northern youth are through the roof

The Canadian Mental Health Association says three out of four children with mental health issues can’t get the care they need in our country.

In addition, our Northern BC branch in Prince George mentioned the waiting list for services is as long as it is because of a lack of resources.

Program Manager, Shirley Hogan stated the COVID-19 pandemic has made kids a lot more anxious.

“Our youth today have so much more anxiety and concerns around things that I never experienced. When I was a youth, climate change wasn’t really anything that was talked about – we knew we needed to take care of the earth, but it wasn’t to the extent that it is today.”

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“Currently, they are still living in a pandemic. I mean, I know we are kind of coming out of COVID but it has had a huge impact on so many people and our youth are included in that. The pandemic had an impact on many, many people.”

Hogan noted kids have different needs and in some cases, require alternative access to secure some level of support. However, the distance between communities, especially in rural areas of the north does pose some additional hurdles.

“If they need psychiatric help or any sort of hospitalization, they are needing to come to Prince George – they can’t get that service in their home community.”

Hogan also noted popular social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram have had a far-reaching impact on youth in a negative way in regard to bullying.

In essence, the idea was to connect people, but it actually had the opposite effect.

“It’s isolating people and it is all of the social media, not just Facebook. They aren’t having the effect of bringing people together – they can actually isolate people even more. For us here in the north, that isolation is still a big part and can affect people’s mental health,” added Hogan.

The situation is even more troublesome when a user can submit a hateful comment anonymously and not face any consequences for their actions.

“People will do things or say things on a computer that they would never say to someone in person. Part of this is if you think of it in your own experience when you have said something to someone and you can tell that it didn’t land appropriately or even the way you meant it to, they were hurt by it and you can see it by talking to them and the way they respond with their body language. But, when you are sending that stuff out on the computer – you can’t see that.”

“You have no idea how the information or your comments are landing with somebody else because you are not able to see that all you see is their response, which they have had time to process and think about how to respond,” added Hogan.

According to Hogan and the CMHA, one in four hospitalizations for children and youth between the ages of 5-24 in 2020 were for mental health conditions.

However, Hogan is optimistic the complexion can change after the province announced more Foundry locations are set to open across the province including locations in Burns Lake, Fort St. John, and Cariboo-Chilcotin.

The only established locations currently open are in PG and Terrace.

Earlier this month, the province allocated 16.2 million dollars where youth who want to help other youth will be able to train for jobs in the health and social services sector as youth peer support workers.

In addition, the CMHA’s Bounce Back program is now available for those 13 and up. Prior to that, you had to be 17 to access it.

“That hopefully will have an impact on people and an opportunity to reach out and talk to someone one on one. It is available over the phone so if someone is living in Burns Lake or Houston they are able to access their coach and have that conversation over the phone.”

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