Mental Health in Youth

A contemporary movement towards youth mental health intervention has been widely adopted in recent decades. There is now a wide focus on intervention for youth in order to prevent mental health crises in later years. Youth mental health symptoms can be observed in a variety of ways, however it may often go unnoticed for many reasons. There is a stigma associated with youth mental health and many believe that children are exempt from mental health disorders, however that is often not the case.

Prevalence

In Canada today, 1.2 million children and adolescents have experienced a mental health disturbance. However, only 20% of those children receive adequate intervention. Comorbidity, (the possession of more than one mental health disorder) is significant in youth. Many youth have comorbid symptoms of mood disorders, anxiety disorders, and behavioural disorders that often go undiagnosed. 

Mental Health Disorders in Youth

  • Mood Disorders

    • Major Depressive Disorder

    • Disruptive Mood Dysregulation Disorder

    • Bipolar Disorder

  • Anxiety Disorders

    • Generalized Anxiety Disorder

    • Separation Anxiety Disorder

    • Social Anxiety Disorder

    • Panic Disorder

    • Specific Phobias

             

         More about Anxiety here.​

  • Behaviour Disorders

    • Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)

    • Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD)

    • Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)

Common Symptoms

Mood Disorders 

  • Sadness, low affect, increase or decrease in sleep, increase or decrease in eating, lack of motivation, lack of pleasure from interests, physical symptoms such as headaches, stomach pains or fatigue. 

Anxiety Disorders

  • Extreme fears, intense vocalization of fears or need to be around parent/caregiver, avoidant behaviour, intense worrying about small tasks, shortness of breath, shaky hands or legs, or “butterflies” in their stomach. 

Behaviour Disorders

  • Irritability, difficulty following instructions, disturbing others, arguing, defying authority, revenge seeking, aggressive behaviour, obsessions or compulsions, routine patterns, or lack of gaze. 

Intervention for Mental Health Disorders in Youth

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT)

 

CBT is the most common form of therapy for youth with Mental Health Disorders. The intervention works to reconstruct negative automatic thoughts that in turn changes learned behaviours. The foundation of CBT is that thoughts drive behaviours, therefore altering thoughts will alter behaviour. CBT often uses psychoeducational approaches, which is defined as offering the child a toolbox or vocabulary to help them first learn to identity their thoughts, which subsequently assists them in future alteration of negative thought patterns. After learning to label and target negative thoughts, sessions can become focused on working on behaviours and emotional regulation. More about CBT here.

Social Skills

A social skills intervention involves steps to improve a child's ability to socialize and recognize social cues. This is with the goal of functioning well in society in mind. Children with special educational needs such as Autism Spectrum Condition in particular may benefit from a social skills intervention.

 

 More about Social Skills here.

Mindfulness

Mindfulness interventions. Mindfulness is defined as 'paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, non-judgmentally.'  Interventions targeting mindfulness vary, but most incorporate a training period of guided meditation techniques focusing on mindful attention and awareness of breath, body, or mind and followed by independent practice. Mindfulness interventions are often included with other components, such as yoga, cognitive behavioral strategies, or relaxation skills training. 

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