Child and youth mental health is become a growing concern.
According to the Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI), it’s estimated that as many as one in five Canadian youth may develop a mental disorder.
While it is not clear whether more youth are developing mental disorders today than in the past, a recent CIHI analysis shows an increase in rates of emergency department hospitalization use for mental disorders among this cohort.
Many experts believe that technology might be having a negative impact on youth development. It is not difficult to come to this conclusion once you realize how technology has changed the way we interact with each other and how we spend our time.
Developmental psychologist Marilyn Price-Mitchell wrote on Psychology Today magazine that for healthy development to occur, children must experience real-life peer friendships and positive relationships with adults.
“They must overcome challenges and obstacles in the real world, learn from mistakes, and reflect on the adult they hope to become,” she wrote.
She argues that if children are spending several hours a day engaged in non-school related technology, there’s not enough time left to make the human connections they need.
The number of calls that the Burns Lake RCMP receives related to mental health occurrences has been increasing since January 2016. This increase has been driven mostly by individuals under the age of 18. A recent RCMP report states that Burns Lake “may benefit from exploring mental health service delivery options to youth.”
Burns Lake youth have recently had access to some resources. Earlier this month, the Child and Youth Mental Health and Substance Use Collaborative hosted a health fair for local students to promote wellness and awareness of mental health issues. Service providers set up approximately 15 tables and provided resources and engaging activities.
The ‘ReachOut Psychosis’ tour also made a stop in Burns Lake earlier this month. By identifying psychosis as a serious but treatable medical condition of the brain, the tour works to help youth and their friends and teachers recognize it early and receive help.
Mental illness is a high-cost condition for which many jurisdictions across Canada are putting specific services in place. According to CIHI, patients with mental illness have costlier and longer stays, and are more likely to have repeat visits. This underscores the importance of early intervention.
But instead of raising awareness and finding new ways to treat mental illnesses, perhaps we need to reassess how we are raising our kids and determine what level of technology exposure can be considered healthy.
I now consider myself lucky that I did not have access to this endless stream of technology and social media while I was growing up and that I was able to experience real life. Unfortunately, this is a luxury our kids no longer have.