Our View: Stigma stymies youth

We like to think of childhood and youth as a carefree time when concerns are about scraped knees or first kisses, homework or what to wear for grad.

But the Norman Rockwell mythology of childhood and youth doesn’t jibe with the reality. (See page A9 for a young person’s insights on mental illness and how it impacts every facet of her life and decision making.) So what’s a young person to do when he or she has a mental illness?

If someone has an injury or illness, society accepts that they need help and should have help.

But our mind-over-matter culture expects people to ‘get over it’, particularly young people because of attitudes like ‘they’ve got it easy. They don’t know how tough life really is.’

Young people locally have said they feel alienated from their community because they must leave to access help.

That’s some of the feedback gathered by the Langley Local Action Team, a local group of doctors, nurses, other health professionals, government agencies, emergency services, social agencies, community groups, young people, and family representatives.

Its mandate is specifically to improve local access to youth mental health issues and substance abuse issues, which go hand in hand.

The team started by trying to increase resources for mental health treatment. But the biggest challenge for the team is tackling the social stigma around mental illness.

That stigma stops adults from getting help so it’s only natural that young people could be even more reticient to come forward. Who wants that label slapped on them?

Change starts with acknowledging that mental illness is just that – illness.

– H.C.



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