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Supporting Youth Mental Health

Many of today’s youth are faced with serious challenges – youth unemployment, low income, childhood obesity, and a lack of social belonging. Sadly, mental illness is a leading cause of disability in youth today and often develops early in life.

A 2017 Statistics Canada Health Report stated that 15 to 24 year-olds in Canada have the highest rate of anxiety and mood disorders compared to other age groups. One in ten youth report having experienced symptoms of depression in their lifetime, and one in seven report suicidal thoughts. These statistics, though upsetting, are not particularly surprising to parents and caregivers, as there is growing awareness around the need for better access to youth mental health services, treatment and supports. But, why are today’s youth reporting such a high degree of mental health issues?

According to Statistics Canada, one third (35%) of youth reported that school was the major contributor to feelings of stress, followed by financial pressures or work (26%), time pressures (8%), personal relationships (6%), physical or mental health condition (4%), other conditions (10%) and an unknown source (10%).

At the YMCA, we see first-hand that having the right resources and supports in place can significantly reduce mental health issues in youth.

A great place to start looking for ways to support your child’s mental health is by visiting the Search Institute. The organization works with families, schools, and communities to help young people become their best selves. They use the Developmental Assets framework to identify 40 positive supports and strengths that children and youth need to grow up successfully. Half of the assets focus on the relationships and opportunities they need in their families, schools, and communities (external assets) and the remaining assets focus on the social-emotional strengths, values, and commitments that are nurtured within young people (internal assets).

How does the YMCA support mental health in youth?

The YMCA offers a place in the community where youth can connect with their families, peers and themselves. It’s a safe place where young people can enjoy sports and physical activity, camps, recreational fun, leadership development, mentorship and a chance to give back as a volunteer. Many of the Search Institute’s Developmental Assets are nurtured through our Y communities and we incorporate this framework into our youth program development. By being an active part in the lives of many youth in our community, we’re able to offer programs and resources to those struggling with mental health issues, and bridge connections to other community support organizations.

Other helpful resources

To learn more about the YMCA of Simcoe/Muskoka youth programs, please visit

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