The BGC National Youth Council (NYC) is responsible for representing the concerns of thousands of youth across the nation served by BGC Canada. BGC’s NYC aims to amplify youth voices by reflecting and addressing various socio-economic challenges across Canada. By ensuring that youth input is included in national initiatives and activities, NYC members serve as ambassadors and role models for other children and youth throughout the organization. We aim to positively influence decision-making on issues related to young people to create a better and safer environment for Canadian youth across the globe.
Today is International Youth Day. A day to remember the importance of investing in today’s youth so that we have the tools and skills to create a brighter future for Canada. This International Youth Day, it is important to call attention to the rising mental health challenges faced by Canadian youth, especially in the post-pandemic era. It is critical to address these issues to work towards understanding how to navigate these relatively uncharted waters in which the pandemic has taken a serious toll on our mental and physical health.
Statistics Canada data shows that youth have experienced the greatest declines in mental health since the pandemic began. Those already experiencing poor mental health before COVID-19 were impacted even more by the pandemic. A Statistics Canada report shows that youth are less likely among age groups to report good mental health– and saw the largest drop in self-reported mental health since the pandemic. Only 42% of youth report their mental health as excellent or very good. An estimated 1.2 million children and youth in Canada are affected by mental illness—yet, less than 20 percent will receive appropriate treatment. There are a variety of short-term and long-term risks associated with youth mental health challenges. These include both health and behavioral risks including increased risk of drug use, experiencing violence, and other habits established in adolescence that affect youth development into adulthood. Therefore, a growing body of international evidence demonstrates that promotion, prevention, and early intervention initiatives show positive returns on investment.
Additionally, mental health disorders—most often depression—are strongly associated with the risk, occurrence, management, progression, and outcome of serious chronic diseases and health conditions. Without intervention, the consequences can be devastating. In a recent report, suicide was recorded as the second leading cause of death for people aged 15-24 However, Indigenous youth are even more vulnerable, dying by suicide about 5 to 6 times more often than non-Indigenous youth. There must be a call to action to better protect our youth and reduce suicide across the country. This begins with increasing awareness, pushing for government reform, and improvement of existing mental health programs for young Canadians.
The Canadian Journal of Psychiatry writes that the only solution is the “creation of a truly transformed system of youth mental health care embedded within the current larger system”. This would include essential services specifically designed for youth to address “multiple health needs (physical, sexual, and mental), substance use, and emerging mental disorders”.
The statement “today’s youth are the leaders of tomorrow” is often quoted by government but neglected in policy considerations. The National Youth Council, therefore, recommends further investment in youth mental health supports. This includes:
- Increased funding for community mental health programs to make therapy and other mental health programs more accessible to youth, by ensuring programs can meet the demand for their services and are affordable.
- All levels of government must recognize the importance of destigmatizing mental health so that BGC patrons along with youth across the nation can receive the help they need.
- Increased access to Mental Health First Aid Training for frontline staff so staff can better support the mental health of youth within existing programs. Through training staff at organizations such as BGC Clubs, we can create an environment where staff is better equipped to speak to youth about mental health and refer them to services as needed – breaking the cycle of mental health stigma.
- It is important to recognize that mental health support is not a one size fits all approach. It affects a variety of vulnerable demographics differently including, marginalized and racialized youth. Therefore, services must be built to address the unique needs of youth experiencing mental distress, “while being sensitive to their cultural, historic, and geographic realities.”
Without the government’s support and attention to this mental health crisis, youth across the country will continue to struggle. By supporting the fight for mental health reform, we can begin to create a brighter future for youth that will in turn improve education, employment, family wellbeing, and the overall quality of life for youth across Canada.
BGC’s National Youth Council
 Statistics Canada: https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/n1/pub/45-28-0001/2020001/article/00003-eng.htm
 Mental Health Commission of Canada: https://mentalhealthcommission.ca/what-we-do/children-and-youth/
 Roberts and Grimes (2011). Return on investment: Mental health promotion and mental illness prevention. A Canadian Policy Network / Canadian Institute for Health Information report. Ottawa: CIHI. Mental Health Commission of Canada (2014). Why investing in mental health will contribute to Canada’s economic prosperity and to the sustainability of our health care system. Retrieved from http://www.mentalhealthcommission.ca/English/node/742
 Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion: https://www.healthypeople.gov/2020/leading-health-indicators/2020-lhi-topics/Mental-Health#:~:text=Evidence%20has%20shown%20that%20mental,%2C2%2C%203%20and%20cancer.
 Statistics Canada (2018). Deaths and age-specific mortality rates, by selected grouped causes, Canada, 2016. Table: 13-10-0392-01
 Health Canada (2015). First Nations & Inuit health – mental health and wellness. Retrieved from http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/fniah-spnia/promotion/mental/index-eng.php.
 Youth Mental Health Should be a Top Priority for Health Care in Canada : https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/0706743718758968