We are here to help!
It’s normal to avoid thinking about problems, or even to pretend they don’t exist – but problems have a way of catching up with you. They can hold you back in so many ways, maybe stopping you from reaching your dreams, or even feeling good about yourself and your day-to-day life. Problems can strike you down just when you want to be at your best.
Some of us are so good at ignoring difficulties that we don’t even know when there is a problem! Sometimes, it’s an adult who first points out the problem and encourages us to get help. Other times, however, parents and teachers downplay some pretty important signs. They might go down the wrong path, maybe saying you’re looking for attention, or you’re not working hard enough, or you’re making life hard for them, when that’s not your reality at all.
You know yourself best, and deep down, you know when things are good for you and when they’re not. Children’s Mental Health Services is about helping you through those times when things are bumpy, weird, or downright scary.
You don’t need to diagnose yourself, or even know much about what’s bothering you: it’s enough to know that you simply want to talk to a counsellor. Then it’s the counsellor’s job to talk with you in a way that sorts out what’s going on, what the main problem is, and what to do about it.
Maybe this isn’t even about you, but it’s someone you know and care about. Sometimes that’s the hardest situation of all – you can see the problem because you’re on the outside, but your friend or family member has no worries, apparently. Or perhaps you’re getting the brunt of the other person’s problems, and you feel helpless and confused.
Other people’s problems can pretty quickly become our problem and cause huge stress for us. Maybe you’re worrying about a friend who’s acting strangely or seems depressed, a parent who’s drinking too much, or a boyfriend or girlfriend who’s always angry or freaking out. Whatever the situation, a counsellor is here for guidance and support. Sometimes, it might be possible to for you to talk tactfully with your family member or friend about your concern, and suggest that you could go to see a counsellor together.
What comes next here is like a summary of some of the problems other youth have already talked about with counsellors at CMHS. Most often, they’ve found solutions, or at least better ways to cope. Maybe you’ll notice something like your own struggle in this list, and maybe you won’t, because everybody and every situation is unique. Nevertheless, it can help to know that even though it might feel like you’re alone and no one can understand, there are many youth who have had similar problems. Most important, you can be reassured there is counsellor at CMHS who will listen to you and work with you.
Here we go:
Let’s talk about this one first, because we’re in what’s been called “The Age of Anxiety.” It seems that kids, teens, and adults of all ages are getting swept up by extreme stress. Being a preteen or teenager is stressful enough, without everyone around you being stressed out, too. There are so many pressures – school, friends, parents, job. So much is happening so fast, and there are major decisions to make.
A lot of signs of too much anxiety are fairly obvious – worrying, getting into a sweat, trouble sleeping. However, some signs – such as being irritable, always being in a bad mood, getting headaches or stomach aches, and hiding out in your room – could be mistaken for something else.
Anxiety is a real downer and it sure interferes with enjoying life. If anxiety is taking over your mood and interfering with your normal activities, it would be a good idea to get a counsellor’s input about what you can do.
It’s normal to feel down when you’ve been disappointed or something bad has happened. It’s not normal to always feel down, with little hope that things will get better. It’s also not normal to constantly have negative thoughts about yourself, your situation, or the people around you. It’s dangerous if you’re having thoughts about ending your life, or if you take risks without caring about staying alive.
Some people are agitated and feel angry when they’re depressed. Others are just the opposite, with no energy and feeling worthless. Some people have trouble sleeping, while others sleep a lot. When you’re depressed, it’s often hard to concentrate, make decisions, or even to enjoy time with friends.
It can be hard to reach out for help when you’re depressed, when you’d rather hide away. You might feel guilty, as though you don’t deserve to feel good. These thoughts are not normal and are your depression “talking” you into staying depressed. The truth is that you do have the right to be happy, no matter what you inner critic might be telling you.
It’s very hard to get out of a depression on your own. Without help, depression often gets worse, as though you’re sinking into a deep pit. So reach out to people who can help – friends, family, counsellor. If you’re thinking about death or ending your life, it’s essential to get help right away – today.
School might be easy for a few of the lucky ones, but most students struggle in some way. Maybe it’s a tough subject, or maybe you never got in the habit of doing homework. Or maybe school is getting impossible for some reason and you’re getting frustrated, mad, hopeless, or bored.
School can be difficult for so many reasons. If you’re working hard and still getting low marks, perhaps you have a learning problem or disability. If you can’t pay attention or sit still, even when the teacher is a good one, you might have ADHD. Maybe you’re going down a “pathway” that’s not the right one for you, and you’d see a future for yourself in some other programme.
Then there’s bullying, in all its forms – face to face, behind your back, and on the net. If school is becoming an enemy zone, it’s the last place you want to be.
Your CMHS counsellor can help you get to the root of whatever is going on for you at school. Sometimes it’s helpful to get an assessment by the consulting psychologist, who can test for learning and attention problems. Your CMHS counsellor can go to a meeting with you and your teacher to talk about whether you’re in the best programme for you. Your CMHS counsellor can also help you with any of the other problems that might sabotaging your success, such as study skills, managing stress, and coping with difficult teachers or mean kids.
It’s a rare teenager who’s not in some conflict with at least one of her/his parents. Conflict is inevitable as you want more freedom and independence, and your parent probably doesn’t think you’re ready. It’s a difficult stage of life for you and your family. Little family problems can suddenly become big and even out of control. While it’s normal for teens and parents to argue, both sides should still feel respected. Violence is unacceptable and is a sure sign that help is needed fast, before someone gets hurt or is sent to custody, and before the relationship is damaged forever.
Sometimes family problems have been around for a long time and now that you’re older, you’re realizing that not all families live this way. Maybe you start to wonder if your parent has a mental health problem, such as depression. Perhaps you’re noticing just how much your parent is drinking and you’re concerned that he/she might be an alcoholic. Recognizing a problem can be like a nagging worry in the back of your mind, or it can overwhelm you like a giant wave that makes you want to run away.
This is a time of life when family secrets such as sexual abuse are disclosed. If you’ve been sexually abused, you might feel that now you’re strong enough that you can speak up and do what you need to do, to look after yourself.
The CMHS counsellor can help family members to listen to each others’ needs and find solutions – even if that means agreeing to disagree. Whether or not these problems get resolved has a big impact on your own mental health now and in the future.
Ask a teenager what’s most important to him/her, and he/she will probably say friends or relationship. There’s no doubt that relationships bring us the greatest joy in life – and the worst heartaches. This is the stage of life when you first fall in love, and probably later break up for the first time (often the worst breakup of anyone’s life). These experiences are so personal, and it can be hard to talk to mom or dad about them, especially when you want to keep some things private. Strangely, it’s sometimes easier to talk to about these problems with a counsellor than a parent.
Dealing with your sexuality is complicated enough when you know you’re straight, but can be confusing and stressful when you’re attracted to someone of the same sex. Discovering your sexuality is a process, and it can be helpful to talk with a counsellor as you’re trying to sort out your feelings. If you know you’re gay or bisexual and you’re coming out, the support of a counsellor can help you find ways to protect yourself from negative reactions.
Physical and Mental Health
You’ve probably heard about the mind-body connection, about how our thoughts and emotions affect our physical health. Some thoughts can direct us to behaviours that are harmful and even life-threatening. An example is a person with an eating disorder who thinks she’s overweight even when she’s too thin, and she limits her food intake. She also might force herself to vomit, take diet pills or laxatives, or exercise a lot. Females are more likely to have an eating disorder than males, but up to 15 percent of teens with this problem are males. If you have an eating disorder, you might try to keep it a secret, which isn’t a good idea because there’s a risk of serious damage to your body. Often, it’s a family member or friend who notices the thinness and urges the person to go for help.
Alcohol and drugs also affect the body. What starts out as curiosity, or just going along with what everyone else is doing, can end up as a habit: something you do regularly when you’re bored, stressed, down, or hanging out with certain friends. Then it becomes something you need every weekend or every day.
Substances can wreak havoc on your body’s organs, like your brain and liver. Surprisingly, substances can actually cause mental health problems. Alcohol, for example, is relaxing, but it’s a depressant and can bring your mood down. Each of the street drugs has its own effect on your brain; for example, using marijuana over time can make you anxious, or so laid back that you have no initiative. Then there are the legal problems: you might never have thought you could get charged.
Your use of alcohol and drugs is a personal decision, and the CMHS counsellor isn’t going to preach at you. If you’re getting concerned, however, the counsellor can be a sounding board.
Anger is such a complicated emotion. Something that angers one person might hardly register on another. There are naturally hot-tempered people, and others who are mellow most of the time. Some people express anger outwardly, while others hold in their anger.
It’s important to know that anger can be a normal emotion that tells us that we need to protect ourselves or change something. It’s not healthy, however, if it’s expressed in a way that hurts you or another person.
Anger is a problem if you’re irritable, frustrated, or in a bad mood more often that you’re feeling good. It’s a problem if you argue with people more often than you enjoy being with others. It’s a serious problem if you put people down, yell, or swear at others. It’s a major problem if you’re violent – getting into physical fights, hitting, or damaging property.
Anger can also be a problem when you hold it in. The anger doesn’t go away; instead, it might evolve into a different emotion, such as depression. It might also leak out in passive-aggressive ways that damage your relationships, such as “forgetting” to follow through with a promise.
A problem with anger control can sabotage your future in so many ways – job, relationships, and your happiness. It’s best to make changes soon, before old habits get ingrained. With the guidance of a CMHS counsellor, you can learn new, healthy ways of expressing anger.
Maybe only your best friend knows that you’re cutting yourself. Maybe no one knows. Self-harming, whether it’s cutting, burning, biting, or hitting yourself, usually is done in secret. For some teens, cutting releases pent up distress and anger, while for others, it might numb emotional pain.
It’s a way of coping with emotional distress that seems to work in the short-term, but isn’t helpful in the long term. The only way to protect yourself from more self-injury is to seek help. It’s important to recognize that self-injury can be dangerous and sometimes lethal. It’s important to take care of your physical injuries, and to seek medical attention right away if you have severe injuries or if you’re thinking about suicide.
Embarrassment and shame often are barriers to asking for help. You might not want to let go of a habit that seems to work for you. It’s important for your physical and mental health, however, that you listen to a friend or to your inner voice that might be suggesting you see a counsellor. Your CMHS counsellor will listen and support you, while exploring the thoughts and feelings that are your triggers.
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Say OutLoud is an alternative youth group that offers a warm, inviting and safe place in the community for gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, inter-sex, two spirited, queer, questioning youth and their allies.
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