Nearly half of Ontario youth missed school due to anxiety, survey indicates

(By: Subi Anandarajah)

Nearly half of youth in Ontario have missed school as a result of anxiety, according to a new survey authorized by Children’s Mental Health Ontario.

The survey shows 46 per cent of respondents aged 18 to 34 cut classes due to anxiety-related problems.

The results reveal 40 per cent of youth sought mental health services, yet 42 per cent of them indicated they did not receive the help they required.

Razi Syed, a second-year business technology management student at Ryerson, said he missed a lot of classes in high school because of his mental health illnesses.

“Back in Grade 12, I missed around 80 per cent of my Grade 12 courses and classes. I wasn’t able to go out a lot because I was always scared I might have another panic attack,” Syed said.

“It affected my academics highly when I wasn’t getting the right treatment, or even when I was starting my medication and I was still in the process of getting the right dosage or the right mix of medication.”

Fifty per cent of Ontario youth who sought mental health services experienced challenges in receiving help, according to the survey.

“As well as the stigma, there was the whole issue of actually getting registered. The whole process was tedious and it was lengthy. Getting help itself at the time just seemed very difficult,” Syed said.

The survey released Nov. 14 was conducted by Ipsos. It surveyed 806 Ontarians aged 18 years and older between Oct. 24 and Oct. 26.

The survey also showed 28 per cent of respondents think the mental health of children and youth under the age of 25 is a critical issue.

The priority of children and youth mental health notably increases for respondents when they are informed about the issue, the survey suggests.

“People need to be aware there is a high incidence of mental health challenges,” said Corinne Hart, an associate professor at the Daphne Cockwell School of Nursing.

“If people aren’t aware that this is a problem that is more universal than less universal, people who face mental health challenges feel like there’s nowhere to turn and they can’t share this because it says something bad about them as a person,” she said.

The Ipsos survey was released just weeks after another report was published which calls for an improvement of mental health services on post-secondary campuses.

The report published Nov. 2 called, “In It Together: Taking Action on Student Mental Health,” provides several recommendations aimed at improving mental health services for post-secondary students.

“I think Ryerson is trying as hard as it possibly can to up the services and to find alternate ways, so if they don’t have enough counselling, they are trying to put in all sorts of proactive things in terms of resiliency, coping skills, study skills and services,” Hart said.

“I think there are just not enough bodies and there’s not enough funding,” she said.

Some resources Ryerson students can access for mental health support include the Centre for Student Development & Counselling, Ryerson Health Promotion and Academic Accommodation Support.

The Nov. 4 report recommends every “post-secondary institution, together with local healthcare and community agencies, develop and implement a plan to assist students with mental health concerns.”

“There’s always more that you can do. There are always more counselors you can have. There’s always faster wait times. There’s always more outreach that can be done,” said Syed. “I know Ryerson has stepped up their outreach. They’re doing a lot on the websites. They’re outreaching on Facebook and whatnot.”

People who feel that they have mental health needs should not be afraid to reach out and use services if they can, Syed added.

(Header photo courtesy of Ryerson University)

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