I’m proud to be from Scarborough, and I imagine great things for our city and its youth. Growing up, my father taught me that “knowledge isn’t power until you act on what you know,” and I look forward to the activation of knowledge and potential of our young people being released on our city in the coming years. As a city, if we invest more in our youth now, we will reap larger rewards as a collective later on. But in a society based on immediacy why wait? In the field of youth mental health this is part of our struggle – should we fund preventative or treatment initiatives? I ask however, can you go wrong either way?
In Ontario, 1 in 5 children and youth have a mental health concern. However, just 1 in 6 receives the help they need. That means in every 100 children and youth, only 3 of the 20 that need mental health support receive it. This is unacceptable. Can you imagine having a broken leg, being in such physical pain that you cannot bear it? But you do not know where to go for help, or if you went for help, you may leave feeling marginalized by society, your friends, and family? Is this not absurd? Yet, it happens on a daily basis to most of our youth who have mental health concerns. Why then, is this acceptable for mental health, but not physical health? I imagine a city that accepts physical and mental health as interconnected parts of one’s overall health and wellbeing. My mother has taught me how a positive outlook on life can have an incredible effect on one’s physical wellbeing, so why aren’t physical and mental health treated the same by our healthcare system?
East Metro Youth Services RISE (Respect In Schools Everywhere) program is a youth led violence prevention and healthy relationships program located in select Toronto high schools. RISE is youth mental health prevention at its best – school based, youth led and consistent. I believe prevention and education at an early age is key to reducing stigma around mental health with our youth. We must invest in mental health supports for our young people to have a healthy vibrant Toronto of the future, and I believe prevention is the key. As citizens of Toronto, we can facilitate hope with our youth by funding and supporting youth programming such as RISE – activating our youth’s potential. Can you imagine a Toronto where all youth have a positive self concept, confidence and sound mental health? I can.
“If you can IMAGINE it, you can achieve it; If you can dream it, you can become it.” – William Arthur Ward
Join the conversation. What do you think are the supports that youth need most? Is it mental health supports? Recreation programs? Employment? Tell us what you think.