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I am a Person, Not an Illness

In response to UNICEF Report Card 14, which ranks Canada 25 out of 41 rich countries in child well-being, Canadian youth are speaking out about the issues that matter to them. UNICEF Canada is taking action to help improve the well-being of children and youth in Canada through its new initiative launching this fall, One Youth. One Youth will elevate the well-being of children and youth to a higher national priority and work to make Canada #1 on the UNICEF Index of Child well-being by 2030. To learn more and sign up for email updates on how UNICEF is working to improve the lives of kids in Canada, go here.

By anonymous, 16, Kitchener

People with mental illnesses have a long history of being stereotyped and stigmatized. With the influx of youth, and especially teens, who are struggling with mental health concerns in today’s society, it is crucial to address different support mechanisms, and provide an understanding and comforting environment through creating awareness and increasing government funding for mental wellness.

Whether it’s depression, anxiety, eating disorders, personality disorders or grieving, mental illnesses can occur anywhere and to anyone. The Canadian Mental Health Association has disclosed some of the most common myths in relation to mental illnesses, including: not actually being illnesses, being avoidable, being a means of attention and being caused by bad parenting or poor situations. But mental health stretches beyond the boundaries and expectations that we set for ourselves and flourishes in the minds of people in all circumstances. One in five Canadians experience a mental health problem in their lifetime and an estimated 10-20 per cent of youth are affected by such illnesses throughout Canada.

Depression is not a means of getting attention, anxiety is not a way to find an excuse and eating disorders should never be a societal ideal. Five out of six children suffering with mental illnesses will not receive the treatment that they need and the percentage of child and youth emergency visits has been and continues to increase.

Why is there a prevalence of stereotypes and judgments around mental health when it seems that almost everyone is affected in some way? How can we change the education of mental health in schools to make it more open and understandable? What efforts can youth take to stand up for their rights?

As a victim of judgmental remarks and one-sided comments regarding the scars on my arms, the lack of energy I have on some days or the explosion of emotions that run through me when my schedule is thrown off, I challenge everyone to speak up, stand out, learn more and most importantly, be you!

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