TCDSB brings awareness to anxiety and depression

February is often known as the month of love, but not for everyone. For some people, February is psychology month.

The Toronto Catholic District School Board (TCDSB) hosted Living and Coping with Anxiety on Tuesday afternoon. The event addressed concerns about anxiety and depression, and showed parents and educators how to deal with children who have them.

“About 70 per cent of adult mental health problems start in youth or childhood.”

— Dr. Maria Kokai

Dr. Maria Kokai, chief psychologist at the TCDSB, wants people to know that children are suffering from mental illnesses.

“It is a well-known fact that about 70 per cent of adult mental health problems start in youth or childhood,” Kokai said. “ We see these problems starting early on and know that if we do not address them in time it is much more difficult to deal with them and treat them later.”

Kendra Fisher, a past team member of the Canadian Women’s Hockey League, was a guest speaker at the event.

Kendra Fisher, a survivor of anxiety and depression, explains how she felt sitting in her psychologist’s office as she was told her list of diagnoses for the first time.

[audio:http://www.torontoobserver.ca/wp-content/uploads/2012/02/rr_Anxiety-Depression-Event.mp3]

As a survivor of anxiety and depression, Fisher wants to help others with mental illnesses accept their disorder and regain control of their lives.

“When somebody comes out and says, ‘I suffer from depression or I suffer from anxiety’, it comes with a lot of unknowns,” she said. “I think it’s that fear of judgment, that absolute embarrassment, and that’s what needs to change.”

Her goal is to erase the stigma that comes with mental illnesses.

“For someone who is judging it, doesn’t understand and sees it from the outside, they think that they’re just looking for attention or being a drama queen or something’s always wrong with that person.” Fisher said.

Rita Alekian, a member of the TCDSB psychology department, talked about the symptoms of anxiety and depression and provided suggestions on how to cope with it.

“There is such a prevalence of [anxiety and depression] in society and there are so many that are suffering from mental health issues,” Alekian said. “It’s really important that people who work with [children] are aware of the mental health issues that are going on so they can help support these students.”