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Mental Health & Wellness

What is Mental Health?

Definitions of mental health can vary from person to person. Many different factors including cultural differences, personal beliefs and professional practices can affect a personal definition.

There are some main points that are pretty common to all the definitions of mental health, such as:

  • Being able to do day-to-day tasks without much difficulty. This can mean going to school or work, or being part of a family, a team or a group without feeling overwhelmed or having major difficulty coping.
  • Being able to deal with everyday stresses, such as tests at school, chores at home or tasks at a job.
  • Feeling a degree of satisfaction with life – generally feeling okay about most things, and thinking the things that are not okay are not too difficult to deal with.
  • Having meaningful and trusting relationships with friends and family or people at school and/or work.

Mental Health Concerns

Most mental health concerns are short-lived and generally do not affect all areas of a child or teen’s life. To make sure any mental health concerns a child or teen might have do not become overwhelming it is important to start help early.

If you have concerns about a young person you’re working with, you could:

  • Contact a community mental health worker, school guidance counsellor, school psychologist, nurse or other health practitioner. If you don’t have access to one of these resources, you may need to contact a referral centre.
  • Contact your Regional Health Authority (RHA) to find out what Child and Adolescent Mental Health services are available in your part of the province.
  • Visit Getting Help on this website for assistance in your area and across Manitoba.

What Do Mental Health Concerns Look Like?

Mental health problems can happen to anyone, at any age, and are the result of a number of factors:

  • Genetic factors such as a family history of mental health problems;
  • Trauma factors such as abuse, neglect or a significant loss or death;
  • Individual factors such as self-esteem and coping skills;
  • Current stressors at school, work or in relationships;
  • Serious illness or physical injury; and
  • Drug and/or alcohol use and experimentation.

The more common mental health problems experienced by young people are anxiety (worrying too much of the time) and depression (feeling sad and tired too much of the time). Other mental illnesses children or teens may experience include:

  • Eating disorders;
  • Bipolar disorder;
  • Psychosis;
  • Self-harming behaviours;
  • Addictions; and
  • Attention deficit disorders.

To learn about the signs and facts of these various mental health problems, see Health Hacks in the Youth section of this website. Also go to Development & Resources in this section for more information on issues that affect child and teen development.

Assessment

To help you determine if you need to consult a mental health professional, here are some signs to take note of. Please note: Not all of these signs will be present at one time, nor are is this list all-inclusive as other issues and concerns may be present as well.

The child or teen:

  • Is reporting feeling unusually stressed or worried (in children this may be expressed as new fears and phobias);
  • Expresses lots of negative thoughts;
  • Is not enjoying or not wanting to be a part of things that he or she would normally enjoy;
  • Is exhibiting changes in behaviour, such as getting into fights and/or legal trouble;
  • Is becoming involved in risky behaviour that they would usually avoid, like taking drugs or drinking too much alcohol (for teens);
  • Seems easily irritated or angry with friends and family for no apparent reason;
  • Is no longer doing as well in school as they should be or used to be;
  • Seems unusually tense or restless;
  • Often cries for no apparent reason; or
  • Has trouble concentrating or remembering things.

Early Help is Important

Experts agree that the earlier problems are identified, the earlier treatment can begin, which leads to a more complete recovery. This is true of most illnesses like diabetes, but is also true for mental health problems.

Early help may prevent the symptoms of an illness from becoming too severe and causes less disruption to the child or teen’s home, school, work or community.

There are many ways to help – medication may be an option, and counselling is often recommended as it helps young people to find their strengths and ways to cope with stress, including helpful activities such as exercise, meditation and relaxation techniques.

With help from a mental health professional, and support from family and friends, mental health concerns are treatable, and recovery can be expected.

Recovery can be thought of as part of a personal journey to feel a degree of satisfaction with life and have meaningful and trusting relationships with people – whether they are family members, friends, or people at school or work.

Recovery also means different things to each person. For some, recovery means that no symptoms will persist, while for others, recovery means learning to live a full life despite any ongoing symptoms.

Getting Immediate Help

You can direct youth you are working with to this website for information, and specifically to the Need Help Now? page if you feel they are in crisis. The resources at this link can be helpful outside regular school and office hours.

Direct youth to seek help right away if they are experiencing the following:

  • Having suicidal thoughts or behaviours, or thoughts of harming others;
  • Having trouble with alcohol or drug use, or having other mental health concerns along with depression;
  • Thinking their symptoms could be linked to a physical health problem;
  • Normal stresses of life do not explain the symptoms; and
  • Measures to assist the problems have not helped
  • Ensure youth who are at immediate risk are not left alone while seeking help.