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We’re all a little mental sometimes…

We’re all a little mental sometimes…

A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of having my teenage niece and nephew stay with me for a week (along with their little 4-year-old sister and mom and dad), and it reminded me of the busy, cheerful house my sisters and I grew up in. There was always activity, people everywhere, and if you needed someone to talk to, there was always someone around. Food was always a big part of our time together, and many times it was our meals together that were the quiet moments before we all flew in different directions again. I truly enjoyed the family-style sit down meals I had with my sister and her family for that week. It didn’t hurt that both Marcia and Rob are accomplished chefs with their own catering business!  That’s not to say  I didn’t love the peace and quiet that returned to our small family-of-two the following week either! 😉 Having a full house can be pretty hectic and a little overwhelming, even for someone who lives in it everyday. It is nice to be able to set aside some alone time too.

My sister Marcia, niece Mika and I on Fripp Island, SC.

My sister Marcia, youngest niece Mika and I on the beach on Fripp Island, South Carolina (USA).

This is why when the opportunity came across my desk Etsy store a few weeks ago to support peer-to-peer mental health support for kids and teenagers, I jumped on it. I was lucky, I managed to get through my teenage years pretty much unscathed. But I know those, thinking back to some old class mates or others in my extended family, that were not so lucky. They struggled. Some ended up living on the streets, others rebelled by doing drugs or drowning insecurity in booze, or just withdraw themselves from social life altogether. Others suffer from depression, or are bullied because they look/walk/talk/think a little differently from the rest of us. Life as a teenager is rough, and ‘social media’ is in the end anything but social. Don’t believe me? Check out this study.

Here are some startling statistics from Canada:

  • 654,000 or 1 in 5 of Ontario’s Children & Youth have a mental health disorder.
  • Only 20% or 132,000 children or youth who need mental health support / services receive them, 523,000 do not.
  • Over 3,000,000 youth in Canada are at risk for developing depression
  • Suicide is the second leading cause of death for youth ages 15-24.
  • 70% of all mental health issues can be resolved with intervention and therapy.
  • An untreated mental health disorder can impact a child’s or youth’s ability to achieve his or her full potential.

This is where Shine Out! Shout Out!, started by the Sparling family, tries to make a difference in the community. Their 2nd annual Shine Out! Shout Out! Hockey Tournament is taking place this coming Saturday the 6th of September, and aims to raise awareness and $20,000 in funds in support of Peer-to-Peer Mental Health Support Programs for Youth age 15-22 in Halton Region.

Part of the event will be a silent auction, for which I have donated my ‘Forgotten Chair’ original pastel painting. The story of the chair, left forgotten on the beach with a storm gathering in the distance, resonated with me for this. Because don’t we all feel like that sometimes; alone and forgotten, and even though people may be nearby, they seem infinitely far away? I am also working on another teenage-inspired painting at the moment and I will share this with you as soon as it is done.  To stay updated on my blog, you could always subscribe to my newsletter at the bottom of my home page. 😉

Forgotten Chair, pastel painting.

Forgotten Chair, original pastel painting.

How can you help?

Come cheer on the men’s and women’s hockey teams and bid on my painting and other great items at the Shine Out! Shout Out! Hockey Tournament on September 6th, right here in Oakville! Take some time to spend with the kids and teenagers in your life. Even something as simple as a quiet dinner or coffee together can make a world of difference. Don’t tell them to just ‘cheer up’ or ‘snap out of it’. Tell them you’re there for them if they need you, and then make yourself available. Ask them how you can help. Remind them they won’t always feel that way, that it will get better and to look to that day. Give them hope. And if you think someone else (professional) could be of more help to them, present that option to them, without judgement or pressure. And support great peer-to-peer programs, donate and spread awareness and understanding.

You can also sign the petition put forth by http://rightbyyou.ca here, to stand up and do right to our youth, and demand the provincial and federal government make mental health-related services, treatment and support available to all children and youth, not just to those whose families can afford to pay for them. RightByYou.Ca asks also that the federal government create a $100-million national suicide prevention fund, as 8% of youths will try to take their own lives, and it is currently the 2nd leading cause of death amongst young people.

If you or someone you know is suffering from mental illness or distress, click here for a list of useful links for more information and support.

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