Canada is Free and Freedom is Its Nationality

Sir Wilfrid Laurier

Thursday, May 5, 2011

IMFC "The Kids are all Right... or are They?"

Please Note: This is a summary of the events and speeches in my own words for educational, information, and entertainment purposes only. It is not the speakers' exact words and should not be taken as such. It also may contain errors due to the nature of the medium. I am not responsible for any of them, use at your own risk.

Kelly Dean Schwartz spoke on the subject, “The Kids are All Right… or are They? Children’s Mental Health in Canada”.

He works in a clinic where his job is to deal with kids in crisis, look for what is wrong, and try to fix it. However, he is a social developmentalist at heart, his interest is in how children develop.

Psychology has retrenched into the medical model of individual child = individual sickness. We are better at analyzing what works, rather than what doesn’t.

The big picture on children’s mental health in Canada doesn’t look that good. Among 29 OECD countries, Canada ranks 21st in terms of child well-being including mental health.

80% of our children are doing well, very well. However, about 20% suffer from some type of developmental, emotional, or behavioural problem. This number is expected to increase by 50% by 2020. 10% have problems with aggressive behaviour. There are 300 children/youth suicides a year, 90% preceded by mental health issues. Our numbers have not decreased while other countrys’ have.

Girls suffer more anxiety and depression that boys. However, that still means that 87%+ are doing alright, so it is not that bleak a picture.

A new way of thinking about these issues is Positive Youth Development (PYD), which encourages thinking about strengths, rather than about deficits or illnesses when considering youth.

53% of children aged 12-15 report high levels of engagement with parents and school, (74% report high levels with school). 80% of 12-17 year olds are highly connected to peers, and 73% volunteer.

We need to remember however that not all that is well now will end well. Only 56% of children show positive development consistently, while 13% show consistent vulnerability. The other 30% move back and forth, about 15% moving from not vulnerable to vulnerable and about 15% moving from vulnerable to not vulnerable. Therefore we also need to engage with children who are not currently at risk, as they may become at risk.

Where does that leave us?

We should focus on asset-based mental health services for all children, not just remedial intervention for at risk kids. Cuts in funding for school psychologists is very discouraging, as it shows a lack of value for mental health services.

We need to focus on development and prevention.

Q1: Is there a gender gap in suicides?

A1: Yes. There is not much of a gap in suicidal thoughts/attempts, however males are more likely to complete suicides. Females inflict more self-harm if suicide fails. There is about a 20-25% gender difference in completed suicides, although it is hard to pin down the number exactly as the methods men use to commit suicide, like car accidents, can be mistaken for accidents.

Q2: What impact do parenting styles have?

A2: Families which have high expectations but also high involvement with their children do the best. However there is no one size fits all parenting approach, as parenting styles can vary even within a family for different children with different needs.

Q3: Has attendance at church been looked at?

A3: The spiritual component of mental health issues is very important, and it is very helpful when families address spiritual needs.

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