Youth Mental Health

Dr. Stan Kutcher, is a Canadian Psychiatrist, Sun Life Financial Chair in Adolescent Mental Health, IWK Health Centre, and Dalhousie University.

In a YouTube broadcast,
Dr. Kutcher offers his insight on how to improve youth mental health. He says that “according to the World Health Organization, mental disorders are the single most common case in young people. In North America approximately 15 to 20% in children and adolescents are suffering from some form of mental disorders. Seventy percent of mental disorders onset prior to the age of 25 making the adolescent years a critical window in which mental health can be promoted and mental health problems can be addressed.”

“If left untreated,” Dr. Kutcher says, “mental disorders can impede all aspects of health including emotional well-being and social development leaving young people feeling socially isolated, stigmatized and unable to optimize their social, vocational and interpersonal contributions to society.”

How to Improve Youth Mental Health

Dr. Kutcher stresses the importance of addressing mental health problems early in life. It can lead to decreases in emotional and behavioral problems, functional impairment and contact with all forms of law enforcement. It can also lead to improvement in social and behavioral adjustment and learning outcomes and school performance.

He believes tackling “youth mental health issues is one of the most important challenges facing our society today. He suggests a quick 3-step plan solution to improve youth mental health:

* All youth mental health programs, policies and interventions must be based on validated scientifically sound research.

* There needs to be immediate increased investment in identification of early onset mental disorders and effective early intervention programs to deliver appropriate care to young people.

* Programs need to be integrated, across jurisdictions, education, health, justice, community services as well as integrated into communities and schools.”

Radio Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC), launched a new national project called This show focusses on health and offers encouragement for how to lead a healthier life. Dick Miller, CBC’s The Current’s Documentary Editor was in Halifax to introduce his documentary, From The Heart. In this documentary, Miller discovers the connection between being physically healthy and mentally healthy. He encourages young people who are hit with mental illness to be ‘physically’ active when on the road to recovery.

Miller introduces Laura Burke and  Dr. Stan Kutcher and first speaks openly with Burke about her work around youth and mental illness.

“Burke is Poet, Advocate, Mentor, working on a Masters in Drama Therapy at Concordia University. She developed Schizophrenia in her early 20s and currently works as a peer support worker with Laing House, Mental Health Foundation of Nova Scotia.  She shares her story as a poet who was diagnosed with schizophrenia and her struggle to separate her medical condition from her muse. ”

Here are some CBC radio excerpts taken from the documentary From The Heart, where Miller clearly explains mental disorders and how physical exercise is an excellent recovery outlet:

  • “All mental disorders are malfunctions of the usual brain function and that means that those components of brain function are not working the way that they should be working.
  • When we say a person has a mental illness or mental disorder it means that for example, the part of the brain that is associated with cognition is not working properly or the part that is associated with mood control isn’t working properly, and then we classify those disorders into signs and symptoms that hang together within those components.
  • Schizophrenia is a disorder primarily of cognition and perception for example, vision seeing something is a normal brain function – see with brain not with eyes – hallucination a visual hallucination is the brain showing an image to you but there is no external stimulus.
  • We know exercise increases chemical components in the brain which are associated with cell regeneration so that when we exercise these chemical components arise more abundantly and so cells that may have been in disrepair get repaired better or cells that haven’t been developed yet are developed better in a new way – very helpful.”  Listen to the full audio CBC radio documentary>>From The Heart.

A Personal Experience

For a more inside glimpse of Laura Burke’s personal experience with the mental health care system, she shares a poem written on the topic through a YouTube broadcast.


The Public Health Agency of Canada reports, Emotional Health Among Canadian Youth, is a critical part of young people’s  well-being. Research has shown that many youth who experience mental health problems continue to have these problems in adulthood and may suffer personal costs, including limited employment opportunities, reduced access to housing and strained family relationships. If poor emotional health develops into mental illness, personal costs can include poverty, homelessness and social exclusion, which may ultimately be life-threatening. Therefore, it is essential to recognize and respond to early indications of emotional health difficulties. See Factsheet.

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