Children’s mental health matters

A local school introduced a new initiative in February to educate parents and caregivers on healthy strategies for responding to challenging emotions in children.

Roden Public School/Equinox Holistic Alternative School, located south of the Danforth, hosted a much-needed workshop on mental wellness with guest speaker Christie Hoyos of the SickKids Centre for Community Mental Health.

According to the Mental Health Foundation, mental health problems affect about one in 10 children and young people. These include depression, anxiety and conduct disorder, and are often a direct response to what is going on in their lives. Overlooking mental health issues in children has been linked to horrific events, including mass shootings, crime and alarming suicide rates.

From an early age, children are exposed to situations such as bullying and parental neglect. About 70 per cent of adults who experience a mental health problem have not had appropriate interventions during their childhood. Without proper care, these children may grow into adults who are emotionally stunted and ill-equipped to handle difficult situations.

Oftentimes, the same adults who are mentally ill disregard the same issues in their children. This creates a cycle. If parents and caregivers mend the cycle of emotional neglect from a young age, they can help prevent mental health problems in all people.

Many mass school shootings that have taken place in North America have been committed by people aged 20 and under. For example, Dylan Klebold, 17, and Eric Harris, 18, students at Columbine High School in Colorado, killed 13 people in 1999 before committing suicide. The Columbine shooting was, at the time, the worst high school shooting in U.S. history and sparked a national debate on gun control, school safety  and mental health. Yet, we are still seeing the same situations happening today, almost 20 years later.

The all-too-familiar narrative goes like this: a crime is committed and the perpetrator is labeled a lone wolf with extensive mental health issues (almost always due to the way he or she was treated growing up).

The sooner we start providing children with mental health support like that local high school did, the more success we will have at preventing mental health-related crimes and suicides by young people.