Friday, April 13, 2012

Mental Health in BC: Statistics, Information & How to Get Help

As a social worker who works with children, youth and adults the issue of mental health and wellness is close to my heart. Early identification, assessment and treatment are the keys to helping people escape worse problems and deteriorating mental health. Untreated mental health does not usually get better without intervention and the earlier the better.

A big part of finding help is openly acknowledging something is happening with a loved one, finding out what resources are available and how to access help. Here is more information that may assist you, or others.

There is reason to have hope, most people who experience mental health challenges can recover and lead healthier, happier and more fulfilling lives with support and treatment.

Statistics & Stories
  • 1 in 5 Canadians will experience a mental health problem this year1.
  • 18% of adolescents (aged 15-24) report having a mental illness or substance abuse problem2.
  • About 26% of employees suffer from depression3
  • 1.6 Canadians are not diagnosed
  • 70% of mental health problems begin in childhood or adolescence
  • 87% who die by suicide had a diagnosable mental illness
From the Not Myself Today Campaign from Partners for Mental Health

Suicide rates among Canadian girls rising
Vancouver Sun, April 2, 2012.

Suicide rates for girls aged 10 to 14 increased 50 per cent, from 0.6 per 100,000 in 1980, to 0.9 per 100,000 in 2008. And among girls aged 15 to 19, the rate nearly doubled — from 3.7 to 6.2 per 100,000 during the same period.

Suicide is the second leading cause of death — after unintentional injuries such as car crashes — among young Canadians aged 10 to 19; in 2008, there were 233 suicides among 10- to 19-year olds, accounting for 20.4 per cent of all deaths for that age group.

Mood Disorders Society of Canada - 1.2 million children and youth aged 15-24 are impacted by mental illness.

Georgia Straight, April 10, 2012


Screening for Mental Health concerns

UBC researcher offers a simple step to identify anxiety in children:  

Awareness can prevent later problems in life such as depression, drinking or smoking 

“Is your child more shy, anxious or worried than other children his or her age?” 

Parents who answer yes can begin immediately to teach their children the skills they will need to manage the anxiety, rather than waiting for a clinical diagnosis.  

Helping young people identify and understand mental distress they may be experiencing and link them to sources of help that will enable them to learn skills and strategies to manage these problems. 

Warning signs of suicide 

A person who is at risk of committing suicide usually shows signs - whether consciously or unconsciously - that something is wrong. Keep an eye out for:

  • signs of clinical depression
  • withdrawal from friends and family
  • sadness and hopelessness
  • lack of interest in previous activities, or in what is going on around them
  • physical changes, such as lack of energy, different sleep patterns, change in weight or appetite
  • loss of self-esteem, negative comments about self-worth
  • bringing up death or suicide in discussions or in writing
  • previous suicide attempts
  • getting personal affairs in order, such as giving away possessions, or having a pressing interest in personal wills or life insurance

How to Get Help? 


Go to your family doctor, or GP, or even a walk-in clinic, or take your child, or teen. Request a referral to your local mental health team, or Child & Youth Mental Health. 


Go to your local hospital emergency and tell them you, or your loved one needs help.


Find a counsellor in the community to talk about the things that are bothering you, or take your children to a counsellor.   


In Crisis: 

  • 24/7 Distress Phone Service - 1-800-SUICIDE (784-2433)
  • Call  310-6789 (no area code needed) - available throughout British Columbia.
Youth in BC is an online resource where youth in distress can:
  • Get help by having a real-time online chat with a trained volunteer. Available from noon to 1am every day.
  • Get email support from the Crisis Centre’s professional staff by emailing:
Kids Help Phone - 1-800-668-6868
  • A toll-free, 24-hour, confidential and anonymous phone counselling, web counselling and referral service for young people ages 20 and under.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Margaret Trudeau speaks about living with Bipolar Disorder

Margaret Trudeau: no regrets about having bipolar disorder, she says in Vancouver interview

Vancouver Sun Digital, March 11, 2012.

Margaret Trudeau has no regrets about having bipolar disorder. Although it’s led to multiple hospitalizations and strained relationships, she says it’s also been a boon to her life journey. In a radio show interview which airs March 12th (part one) and 19th (part two), Trudeau will discuss the effects – good and bad – of having bipolar.

From what I can glean from the advance snippet of the Trudeau segment I’ve been offered, she is characteristically candid during the in-studio interview on Vancouver’s Co-op Radio program, Beautiful Minds. Show host Richard J. Dalton asks Trudeau this rather unconventional question:   ”If you look at all the ways having bipolar disorder has affected your life, if you could go back, would you choose not to have bipolar disorder?”

Trudeau replies: “No, no, no, no, no, because I’ve had such a joyful life. I’ve had such an exciting life.  I’ve had so many rich, rich beautiful things happen to me in my life because I do have energy, and I do reach out and I stretch my eyes.  And I’ve always asked the questions, and I’ve always had a sense of adventure. I go too far.  Pierre used to say to me … I exaggerate, but that’s what my emotions were — so high, so enthusiastic, so sad.  I think that I’ve had a zest for life, and I think it’s been a gift.  And in some ways, my bipolar, it’s also been a terrible thing untreated because I — I’ve damaged so much and so many relationships and hurt so many opportunities I could  have had because of the illness.  And that’s what I’d like to prevent other people from doing…. 

“Accept it early. Accept it right away when you don’t feel yourself.  Get some help.  Talk to someone.  Even the act of talking might be the thing that will keep you from falling deeper and deeper into a depression.”

Since her admission to the psychiatric ward at Vancouver’s St. Paul’s Hospital several years ago, Trudeau has found her groove as a mental health advocate, willing to share her own struggles so others trying to cope won’t feel so stigmatized. She’s been brutally honest in her books, public appearances and in interviews. In her chat with Dalton, she mentions she’s working on yet another new book, a follow up to her best-selling memoir, Changing My Mind:  

I have found in my path in the last 10 years an awful lot of happiness. The next book I hope is going to be, again, stories, but this time about how to make really good choices to be happy. I think we can choose to be happy in our lives. We can choose to wake up and grumble all day and be bitter and angry and judge others and find satisfaction in others doing bad instead of good. Or we can we wake up with optimism and love and say ‘Just what is this beautiful day going to bring me?’”

Many people, including friends and family members, will provide anecdotes for Trudeau’s new book. She’s begun compiling them and hopes to publish next year.

The Beautiful Minds Radio show was conceived by Dalton a few years ago. Then he helped create it as part of a team of volunteer programmers, as a vehicle to enlighten the public and debunk stereotypes about those with mental health issues. C0-op Radio is an advertising-free station and one of the truly remarkable aspects of the Beautiful Minds show is that many of the programmers struggle with mental health issues themselves, including Dalton, who has dysthymia, a form of mild, chronic depression. His diverse group of colleagues on the show have depression, bipolar disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder and schizophrenia.

“Some programmers without mental illness manage to make it through life quite fine anyway,” Dalton says lightheartedly.

Dalton sat beside me when he worked as a reporter at The Vancouver Sun and his interviewing technique was one of the best I’ve ever observed. Now that he has a radio gig, everyone else can now hear it too.  Tune into Beautiful Minds Radio, on Co-op Radio, 102.7 FM,  the second and third Mondays of the month, from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m. in Vancouver, and via

The show’s website is really worth exploring because you can listen to archived shows. Find it here: