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Check your child

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Check your child

According to the Canadian Journal of Psychiatry, 20 per cent of children and youth in Canada have a diagnosable mental health disorder – In Ontario, the numbers are about 1 in 5 for 4- to 16-year olds. With the additional demands of a family’s back to school schedule, Family TLC a group of therapists and life coaches specializing in working with families, has provided parents with a Teen Mental Health Checklist to help distinguish between what might be just ‘hormones’ and something more serious happening with their children.

“Depression is a huge reality among youth right now,” said Sue Cook, one of the therapists with Family TLC. “With the added demands of the holidays, work commitments and social functins, parents may find little extra time to notice key behaviour changes or a significant disruption in their kids’ normal routine or disposition.”

Cook explains that often with adolescence, symptoms of depression or mental health issues are misdiagnosed as social disorders or falling in with the wrong crowd. “There are currently a great number of teens on some form of anti-depressant, but the truth is that the harmful effects of these drugs on adolescence are not yet known,” she continues, “It can be frustrating for doctors and other professionals because there are not many resources available in Barrie to deal with youth, and it often means travel to Newmarket or Toronto, or no treatment at all.”

Currently, about 40% of young adults with depression do not use any mental health services. “We could be helping so many more families if parents were more aware of the signs,” she said.

In addition to typical deviant or rebellious behaviour, Cooks suggests to look for a significant rise in anxiety or isolation. Here are some highlights from the checklist available at

Typical Behaviour

Sleeping in late or needing lots of sleep
Staying up late
Friends can replace family at times

Warming signs
Coming home exhausted from school or work
Up until early hours every night – could indicate unable to sleep
Loses connection with parents and family altogether // or no friends at all

“Parents have to step up as the advocate for the child and be willing to do what it takes,” she said. “Because of technology and the changes from their own upbringing, parents are not trusting their gut instincts anymore. Even if a professional says there is nothing to fear, remember that you have lived with that child for 15 years and you know your child better than anyone.”

Lastly, Cook suggests talking to a professional before approaching your child on the subject.
“It’s so important to catch it early,” she said. “The longer it takes hold of your child, the harder it will be to pull them back.”