Tag Archives: youth suicide statistics

A New Prescription For Depression: Join A Team And Get Sweaty

Ryan “China” McCarney has played sports his entire life, but sometimes he has to force himself to show up on the field to play pick-up soccer with his friends.

“I’m dreading and I’m anticipating the worst. But I do it anyway. And then, it’s a euphoric sensation when you’re done with it because you end up having a great time,” says McCarney.

McCarney was just 22 when he had his first panic attack. As a college and professional baseball player, he says getting help was stigmatized. It took him six years to get professional support. He still struggles with depression and social anxiety, but says exercising helps him — especially when it’s with his teammates.

Research shows exercise can ease things like panic attacks or mood and sleep disorders, and a recent study in the journal, Lancet Psychiatry, found that popular team sports may have a slight edge over the other forms of physical activity.

The researchers analyzed CDC survey data from 1.2 million adults and found — across age, gender, education status and income — people who exercised reported fewer days of bad mental health than those who didn’t. And those who played team sports reported the fewest.

One of the study’s authors, Adam Chekroud, an assistant adjunct professor at Yale’s School of Medicine, thinks team activity could add another layer of relief for sufferers of mental illness.

He says there are biological, cognitive and social aspects to mental illness.

“Some sports might just be hitting on more of those elements than other sports,” he says. “If you just run on a treadmill for example, it’s clear that you’re getting that biological stimulation. But perhaps there are other elements of depression that you’re not going to be tapping into.”


Hearts Get ‘Younger,’ Even At Middle Age, With Exercise

Now, this study only shows an association between group exercise and improved mental health, and can’t prove that the one causes the other. But, given what is known about depression in particular, it adds up, says Jack Raglin, a professor in the department of kinesiology in the School of Public Health at Indiana University, Bloomington.

People who are depressed often isolate themselves, he says, so exercising in a group setting, “can help alleviate symptoms and deal with this very pernicious symptom of depression.”

Group exercise or team sports might also have an edge over other forms of exercise because they add an element of accountability, says Raglin. He did a study finding that couples who started an exercise program together had a lower dropout rate than those who started one on their own.

The study showed that “very simple forms of social support can be beneficial,” he says.

Scientists don’t know the exact mechanism that makes exercise elevate mood and decrease anxiety, but there is a body of research to show that it does work on the short and long term.

“If you conceptualize exercise as a pill it means, well it’s a rather small pill and easy to take and easy to tolerate,” says Raglin.

One limitation of the Lancet Psychiatry study is the data is based on patients self-reporting their symptoms. Dr. Antonia Baum, a psychiatrist and the past president of the International Society for Sports Psychiatry says patients don’t always give an accurate picture of their mental health. She says the study is an important step in this research field, but the conclusions shouldn’t be taken as scientific gospel.

“We are animals. We are meant to move and if we don’t, a lot of systems slow down, including our mood and cognition,” says Baum. “So it makes intuitive sense that exercise is beneficial, but it’s nice to try to start to wrap our arms around being able to quantify and qualify that in some ways.”

Baum says she works with each of her patients to incorporate exercise into their lives. And she says this study will be a good jumping off point for more research on team sports and mental illness.

But, Baum and other researchers say getting someone who is depressed to start exercising is easier said than done.

“It’s all well and good to conclude that exercise whether it’s done as a solo or a group pursuit is beneficial, but to get patients to do it is another matter and when you have a depressed patient motivation is often lacking,” she says.

Chekroud says getting patients in general to stick to any kind of therapy is challenging.


After High School, Young Women’s Exercise Rates Plunge

“It’s not just exercises that people stop doing, they also stop taking medications. They stopped showing up for therapy,” he says. “Adherence is a big problem in health care right now,”

He says the study’s findings could lead to more tools to help people reduce the overall burden of mental illness, now the leading contributor to the global burden of disability.

“The field is really crying out for things that we can do to help people with mental health issues,” says Chekroud.

For McCarney, team sports have helped him get a handle on his symptoms, he says. Before social gatherings, he often feels claustrophobic and panicked, but when he works through the anxiety and gets onto the field, he says it’s always worth it.

“It just gets you around people which I think is another huge thing when you’re trying to maybe break out of a depressive cycle,” he says.

How to get started

For some people, the idea of joining a team or any kind of group fitness activity is terrifying. Here are a few tips for getting started.

Find a sports ambassador. Raglin recommends finding a “sports ambassador,” a friend who can connect you with a group sport or activity. The friend can get you up to speed on the sport and what’s expected of you. Team sports may feel like a leap of faith, says Baum. But, she says the rewards are worth it. “It’s like playing in an orchestra — the sum being greater than the parts — truly thrilling when it all comes together,” she says.

Match your skill level. It’s not hard to find amateur sports teams to join, on sites like meetup.com. A lot of workplaces also have team sport activities, but Raglin says you make sure the skill level is right for you. You’re more likely to have a good experience and want to go back. “There is nothing worse than being on a team where the skill or intensity of the players is way above or below your own level or the level of competition you were looking for,” Raglin says.

Join a run or bike club. If you’re not into team games, go to your local run shop or bike shop to find run communities, bike clubs or community rides to join. Raglin recommends the November Project, which is a free fitness program with chapters in major cities around the world that hosts workouts.

Put money on the line. If you really aren’t into team activities, Baum says getting a personal trainer or signing up for a gym can “help add a social element, and that all important accountability.”

Try the obvious thing first. Baum says to look at the activities you’ve done throughout your life and think about which ones worked best for you. She says she sometimes takes her patients running or walking with her for a therapy session to start modeling the types of exercises that could work for them.

Sasa Woodruff is a freelance radio reporter and producer based in Los Angeles. Article, courtesy of NPR.


‘Crisis’ in youth mental health: Toronto Star

Across Canada more than 5,800 youths have died from suicide during the past 13 years, according to an investigative story by the Toronto Star.

At the age of 15, Laurissa Rose Degraw attempted to take her own life for the first time.

Over the next five years, she tried four more times.

“She made it very clear that this is how her life would end,” says her mother, Aimee Huitema. “She said it to me. She said it to her social worker. She said it to her doctors that she would take her life one day.”

More than 5,800 Canadian children and youth have died by suicide during the past 13 years across Canada — some as young as 8 years old, according to data compiled by a Toronto Star/Ryerson School of Journalism investigation from coroners’ offices in all provinces and territories except Nunavut.

Suicide is second only to accidents as the leading cause of death for young people in Canada.


By Robert Cribb Investigative Reporter

Noella Ovid Ryerson School of Journalism

Blair Bigham Special to the Star

Fri., Sept. 14, 2018


In 2005, 146 people between the ages of 8 and 24 died by suicide in Ontario, according to coroner data. In 2016, the figure was 181.

Degraw was 20 when ended her life on a summer evening in July of 2016, hours after she returned home from a week at the family’s Lake Huron cottage.

“We had an amazing few days at the beach with my parents and my younger daughter Lily. Everything was perfect,” says Huitema.

But upon their return home, Degraw told her mother she wanted to go for a walk after dinner. She would never return.

In what was at least her fifth attempt at suicide, she hanged herself. Police found her body a two-minute walk from her house in Ingersoll, Ont.

Despite dedicated government mental health campaigns aimed at young people over the past two decades, youth suicide rates have remained steady. Some provinces have seen increases in recent years.

In Saskatchewan, 36 young people killed themselves in 2005; that number jumped to 54 last year. In British Columbia, the number rose to 114 from 78 a decade earlier. In Nova Scotia, the figures more than doubled in that same time frame.

Deaths are only recorded as suicide if the intent is clear. Experts estimate that for every completed suicide, between 10 and 100 suicides are attempted.

A 2016 survey of 1,319 Canadian teens aged 13 to 18 conducted by Kids Help Phone found one in five seriously considered suicide.

The coroners’ data does not break out ethnicity or race. But Health Canada data shows suicide is the leading cause of death for Canadian Aboriginal youth, where the rate of suicide is five to 11 times higher than for non-Indigenous populations.

McMaster University assistant clinical professor Dr. Catharine Munn says “kids are suffering” from a mental-health crisis on campuses.  (Peter Power for the Toronto Star)

“Kids are suffering,” says McMaster University assistant clinical professor Dr. Catharine Munn. “One student told me it felt (like) she was screaming at the top of her lungs, but no one was listening.”

National data on youth hospitalization for mental health issues also show a steady upward trend. Since 2007, emergency department mental health visits for patients aged 5 to 24 have jumped 66 per cent, according to new data from the Canadian Institute for Health Information. One in 12 was given mood/anxiety or antipsychotic medication.

Hospitalizations related to intentional self-harm increased by 102 per cent for girls aged 10 to 17 between 2009 and 2014 (four times higher than boys), CIHI data shows.

“It’s like cancer. But we ignored it for decades, and now we’re surprised?” says Munn.

While governments have acknowledged the crisis — and responded with millions of dollars in funding and programs — there have been few signs the problem is abating.

Kimberly Moran, CEO of Children’s Mental Health Ontario, says there needs to be counselling and therapy for moderate mental health issues as well as specialized mental health services for those who may be suicidal and require 24/7 intensive treatment.

“Treating a child who is sad or depressed is much less money than it is for a child that is critically ill and in a hospital, and that’s certainly what happened to us. Once my daughter became suicidal then she had to be put in an in-patient unit in the hospital,” says Moran.

Dirk Huyer, chief coroner of Ontario, says coroners don’t have the expertise to understand all underlying factors. “Clearly, all of us in this society recognize that this is an important issue and an issue that continues to occur and that many in society are trying to figure the underlying factors,” he says.

One factor is bullying which has escalated and intensified on social media and brought into the national spotlight after the suicides of 15-year-olds Amanda Todd, Jamie Hubley and Todd Loik, as well as Rehtaeh Parsons, 17.

“Suicide happens in the darkest moments of your life where you feel like nothing else can help solve your problems,” says Carol Todd, Amanda’s mother. “They think that if they disappear off the earth, all their pain will go away. They don’t think beyond how much it can hurt the people around them or if there’s a tomorrow that will be brighter.

“I was afraid that if you said the word (suicide) then you would implant the idea, but the idea is already implanted in their head,” she says.

Amanda died in October 2012 at her home in Port Coquitlam, B.C. About a month before, she had posted a video to YouTube entitled “My Story” and used flash cards to tell about being bullied. She also left a video message to her parents on her cellphone. Carol still hasn’t been able to watch.

“With teenagers, it’s like someone can say, ‘I hate you, I don’t want to be your friend and I’m going to tell everyone all the bad things about you,’ and that will be enough to spiral everyone down, especially if they’re vulnerable to start with,” she says.

Marshall Korenblum, psychiatrist-in-chief at the Sick Kids Centre for Community Mental Health, says that while bullying among youth has been around for hundreds of years, social media has compounded its impact.

“You can basically spread a rumour now to hundreds of people with one click of the button so bullying is old as the hills but social media makes it faster, more widespread and easier to be anonymous,” Korenblum says.

Then there’s the growing exposure young people have to suicide — even the celebration of self harm — on television and social media which can trigger the minds of young children.

“If you’re at all thinking about suicide and you wanted to learn how to cut yourself, or if you’re anorexic and you want to learn how to starve yourself, there’s a lot of websites out there that tell you how to do that,” he said.

The Netflix series 13 Reasons Why has generated controversy across school boards in Canada for its portrayal of suicide. Some elementary schools sent out emails to parents to let them know students were prohibited from even mentioning the show on school grounds.

Ottawa city councillor Allan Hubley’s son, Jamie, was battling depression after being verbally and physically bullied throughout elementary and high school. Jamie died by suicide in 2011.  (Dave Chan)

Depression — among the most common forms of mental disorders amongst youth — is also a factor.

Ottawa city councillor Allan Hubley’s son, Jamie, was battling depression after being verbally and physically bullied throughout elementary and high school.

The bullying began escalating on the school bus when Jamie, a figure skater, was in Grade 7 and continued into high school as he was constantly teased for being openly gay.

“You feel helpless,” says Allan. “You can’t get them help when you’re trying to get them help. It just wasn’t available.”

Jamie died by suicide in 2011.

Gay youth are four times more likely to die by suicide than heterosexual youth, due in large part to bullying and negative family attitudes, U.S. studies have shown.

Jamie’s father is still struggling to understand how it happened.

“Why are (kids) coming to that conclusion?” asks Allan. “What’s going on today that kids are deciding that the best way to deal with this is to end their lives?”

With files from David Lao/Ryerson School of Journalism

Where to get help

Distress and Crisis Ontario: http://www.dcontario.org/centres.html

Your Life Counts: https://yourlifecounts.org/find-help/ (enter Canada/Ontario)

Youthline (support for LGBT youth): http://www.youthline.ca/

ConnexOntario (all ages): 1-866-531-2600

Good2Talk (post-secondary student helpline): 1-866-925-5454

Kids Help Phone (general counselling line): 1-800-668-6868

Online chat/text/email:

Youthspace: http://youthspace.ca/

Ontario crisis text (2 p.m. -2 a.m. ET): 741-741

Ontario Crisis Chat ( 2 p.m. – 2 a.m. ET): www.dcontario.org/ontx.html

YouthSpace: 778-783-0177 (6 p.m. – 12 a.m. PST) or youthtalk2@pcfsa.org


Canada Suicide Prevention Service (CSPS) in French or English: toll-free 1-833-456-4566 (24/7)

First Nations and Inuit Hope for Wellness 24/7 Help Line: 1-855-242-3310

Canadian Indian Residential Schools Crisis Line: 1-866-925-4419

Trans LifeLine (all ages): 1-877-330-6366


Student ‘platform’ calls for more mental health resources in schools

Ontario student trustees launch recommendations ‘by students for students’ they hope will turn into campaign issues for June provincial election.


With five months until voters go to the polls, members of the Ontario Student Trustees’ Association (OSTA-AECO), have done their homework well before deadline. “We hear students talking about it all the time,” says association president Dasha Metropolitansky, a Grade 12 student at White Oaks Secondary School in Oakville.Metropolitansky said the message trustees had been hearing on the ground was backed up by results of an OSTA survey conducted in November, in which three-quarters of the 8,230 student respondents rated their school’s mental health resources as ineffective, while two-thirds said they were inaccessible.The 22-page document draws on the November student survey of 8,230 high school students from 62 Ontario boards, with recommendations focused on student well-being, equitable access to programs, and the need to teach practical skills critical to 21st-century learning.

Recommendations also include:

  • The student platform is a new initiative “created by students for students” and trustees now hope major political parties will incorporate the 16 recommendations into their own education platforms during the campaign, she said.
  • The platform, which includes 16 recommendations, calls on the government to mandate and fund suicide intervention and mental health training programs for high school staff and students across the province, at a time of unprecedented demand for services among children and youth.
  • Student well-being and mental health supports are a central part of the “student platform” they will roll out at Queen’s Park on Wednesday on behalf of the 2 million students they represent from public and Catholic school boards.
  • Ontario’s student trustees believe the need for better mental health resources and training at schools is so great they hope to make it an issue in the provincial election this year.
  • Giving students the right to form a well-being club or committee in every school, and providing mental health training programs for youth;
  • Mandating and funding breakfast programs for all schools;
  • Testing or screening all students in Grades 1, 4 and 8 transition years to identify exceptional learning needs.
  • More steps to ensure all students with the legal right to special education accommodations receive them;

More funding for guidance counsellors, and requiring that all be trained in suicide intervention; Youth also want training in other life skills that are relevant to any workplace, says Metropolitansky, which is why the platform calls for all students to receive training in technological literacy as well as basic CPR and First Aid, self-defence and conflict resolution. “The comment we hear from students and our peers is ‘we feel like what we’re learning is disconnected from real life and can’t necessarily be applied outside the classroom,’ ” she said.

In an era when youth voter turnout is low, Metropolitansky and her fellow trustees are also hoping their platform will get more students who are able to vote engaged in the June election

It also recommends co-op credits that provide workplace exposure be changed from “open level” courses to “mixed level” so they are recognized as credits on post-secondary applications.

Themes of the platform echo some of the findings in the association’s 2017 survey of students, parents and educators released in December, which raised alarm about the lack of mental health resources and also highlighted the demand for financial literacy, which the province has recently taken steps to add to the Grade 10 curriculum.


  • Photo caption: Dasha Metropolitansky, a Grade 12 student at White Oaks Secondary School in Oakville and president of the Ontario Student Trustees’ Association, said mental health issues are top of mind for many students.  (Chris So / Toronto Star File Photo)

    By Andrea Gordon Education Reporter, Toronto Star

    Wed., Jan. 10, 2018

The Alarming Rate of Youth Mental Health Issues

A 2016 study of more than 25,000 postsecondary students conducted by the Ontario University and College Health Association (OUCHA) found that 65 per cent had experienced overwhelming anxiety, 46 per cent had felt so depressed that it was difficult to function, 13 per cent had seriously considered suicide and 11 per cent had attempted suicide.

These results confirm what campus psychological services professionals have been echoing in recent years: mental-health issues abound in today’s youngest generation and they continue to grow. According to the Ontario Ministry of Advanced Education and Skills Development, Ontario’s postsecondary institutions saw a 433 per cent increase in the number of students registered with mental-illness disabilities between 2oo4-14.  Given these statistics, it is not out of line to call this a mental-health crisis among Gen Z.

(courtesy, Sean Lyons, Professor of leadership and organizational management in the College of Business and Economics at the University of Guelph, appearing in the Globe and Mail on Dec. 16, 2017)


Reports of mental health issues rising among postsecondary students: study

A fifth of Canadian postsecondary students are depressed and anxious or battling other mental health issues, according to a new national survey of colleges and universities that finds more students are reporting being in distress than three years ago.

Reports of serious mental health crises such as depression and thoughts about suicide also rose.

“The survey tells us what the situation is, it doesn’t necessarily tell us the why,” said Rachelle McGrath, a team lead for Wellness Services at Mount Royal University. “It’s our job to try and figure out why.” Ms. McGrath is a member of the Canadian Association of College and University Student Services (CACUSS), the group that released the study.


One of the most striking findings was that 8 per cent fewer students than in 2013 felt their health was very good or excellent. Between 3-per-cent and 4-per-cent more said they had experienced anxiety, depression and stress that had affected their academic performance.

Five-per-cent more women said they had experienced sexual touching without consent, as did 1-per-cent more men.

Some of the increases could actually be a positive sign that more people are willing to talk about how they feel, rather than reflecting a decline in mental health among postsecondary students.

“It could be that there is increased occurrence of mental illness, but it could also be that campuses are creating environments where students feel it’s safe to come forward,” Ms. McGrath said.

Still, some of the statistics in the report should raise immediate alarm and lead to action, she added.

The number of students saying they seriously considered suicide in the prior year was 13 per cent, up 3.5 per cent from 2013, for example.

“That is something that is clear, we don’t want people to be considering suicide,” she said.

The increase in stress and anxiety is happening at the same time that students say they are exercising and sleeping less. In 2013, over a quarter of students said they hit the gym for at least 20 minutes three times a week or more. Last year, only 22 per cent had been that active.

“It’s all interconnected, bad sleep means less capacity to manage your emotions, means more anxiety,” said Janine Robb, the executive director of the Health & Wellness Centre at the University of Toronto and also a member of CACUSS. “It’s hard for students to see the importance of resting and taking time away. It’s counterintuitive to them when they feel they should be studying and doing an all-nighter,” she said.

Not all trends were negative. More young women said they had the HPV vaccine that protects against cervical cancer. Several provinces offer the vaccine for free through public school boards. Vaccinations against other infectious diseases were also up.

As well, fewer college and university students said they had driven after drinking. Binge drinking is on the decline too: The percentage of students who said they had more than seven drinks at one time was down 1 per cent.

Improving mental health could take more resources, said Jennifer Hamilton, the executive director of CACUSS.

The survey “builds a case for increased resources to help support student mental health on campus and for health professionals to be able to understand what is really happening with our students,” she said.


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University of Guelph seeks to reduce mental-health stigma

A psychologist led the audience in deep-breathing exercises and volunteer counsellors sat at dinner tables at a semi-formal student banquet held to raise awareness about suicide at Guelph University on Thursday. The event was a response to the suicides of four students at the university this academic year, an unusually high number that is leading to added support and discussion on campus.

The university is working with the Canadian Mental Health Association to bolster its counselling services, holding focus groups and a town hall this spring to survey students. And more students are training in bystander intervention in order to spot the signs of mental distress early.

Students are leading many of the initiatives. Thursday’s banquet – which sold about 200 tickets – was organized by the undergraduate psychology society.

 “The goal is to get people to speak about suicide. It’s not a taboo,” said Michaela James, one of the lead organizers of the event and a fourth-year student. “Right now, it’s stigmatized.”


Across the country, the risks of not addressing mental-health challenges are growing. College and university students say their overall health is in decline. In the most recent national survey of student health, released in September, reports of anxiety and depression increased. Thirteen-per-cent more students said they had considered suicide compared with the numbers in 2013. At the same time, almost a tenth fewer students reported being in excellent or very good health.

Guelph is typical of the situation, said Brenda Whiteside, the university’s associate vice-president of student affairs.

“All universities are seeing an increase in the number of students struggling with anxiety. Students seem to be more stressed,” she said.

As a result, the demand for mental-health services far outstrips the growth in enrolment, by roughly a four-to-one ratio.

“We have an exponential increase in need,” she said.

Ms. James is focused on addressing mental health because her own brother took his life, she told the audience.

“My brother was the glue to my family,” she said. “After his passing, I fell apart. We fell apart. I swore to myself that I would live every day of my life in honour of him. I would help people who felt the darkness that he felt.”

Other speakers stressed that removing anxiety about disclosing suicidal thoughts is critical in order for family members or close friends to be able to help.

“How did something so tragic happen when at no point did this heartbreaking outcome ever enter our thoughts as a possibility?” said Myrna Hutchison, whose son Steven killed himself while he was away at university in 2013. “None of us had any idea just how intense his internal struggles were, how much additional weight he was carrying on his shoulders as the walls of stigma continued to build,” she told the audience.

Some of the stress students feel comes from academic requirements, some said. Marking schemes, in which exams count for 40 per cent or even 60 per cent, or multiple exams held on the same day, should be reviewed.

“The way courses are designed can emphasize high-stakes exams,” said Rawy Shaaban, a member of the Mental Health Support Initiative, a student group at Guelph. “I see students trying to cope, there are all kinds of unhealthy habits.”