McCreary Health Society surveys 38,000 students across the province. (File photo)

Lack of education playing role in Fraser North students missing out on mental health services

2018 B.C. Adolescent Health Survey notes students do not know where to turn to for help

A lack of education around mental health issues is playing a role in Fraser North students missing out on needed services, according to a recently released McCreary Centre Society report on B.C. Adolescent Health.

“In the year before they took the survey, 18 per cent of Fraser North students felt they had needed mental health services but had not accessed them,” said McCreary’s executive director, Annie Smith.

“This was a local increase from 12% five years earlier. This is obviously concerning as are the reasons youth gave for not accessing these services, which included not wanting their parents to know.”

Fraser North health service delivery area is comprised of four school districts: New Westminster (SD 40), Burnaby (SD 41), Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows (SD 42), and Coquitlam (SD 43).

The survey is completed every five years.

Results have been sent to the school districts but it is at their discretion to post them.

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Smith said the issue was not so much a lack of services for students, but many who were questioned during the 2018 survey, said they did not know how to go about attaining them.

“I think the number one thing that young people said they wanted to learn more about in school is mental health, so I think they’re really struggling with feeling anxious,” Smith said.

She added the students want to know what “normal” is, how to spot a mental health condition, and how to distinguish between general and problem anxiety.

Communication with the elder generation is proving difficult for many too.

“We’ve heard from a lot of young people that parents just dismiss how they’re feeling and they don’t know where to go to get help,” Smith said.

“They don’t know who to talk to.”

The survey did have some bright spots for local students as well, however. Even though there are more kids experiencing mental health issues, on the whole, most youth feel positive about their quality of life. 79 per cent indicated they had a good life and 77 per cent could name something they were really good at.

“There were definitely a lot of positives locally,” Smith said.

“Youth had somebody they could turn to in their community outside their families, which you don’t see in all areas, and [ youth reported] much lower substance use than we see in some communities as well.”

Fraser North youth were less likely than their peers across BC to have tried tobacco (14 per cent vs. 18 per cent), alcohol (38 per cent vs. 44 per cent), and marijuana (20 per cent vs. 25 per cent).

A copy of the report, Balance and connection in Fraser North: The health and well-being of our youth, and an accompanying Power Point of the results are available at www.mcs.bc.ca.

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