Healthy emotional and social development lay the foundation for mental health and resilience in childhood and throughout life. Early intervention works with mental health just as it does with physical health. Treat a cold before it becomes pneumonia. Treat initial behavior or emotional problems before they become more complex and deep-seated.
We know that over 75% of mental health disorders appear in early adolescence and young adulthood. Nearly half of all diagnosable mental illnesses show symptoms by age 14, and 75% begin by the age of 24. Yet only 1 in 5 adolescents between 12-17 years-old receive treatment or counseling. Approximately 14 to 25% of Canadian children and youth experience mental health issues, and it is a misconception that these illnesses can only be treated, and not prevented.
If we want to ensure Canada’s future prosperity, we need to change the way we think about mental health and it starts with our children. An estimated 1.5 million Canadians (aged 0-24) affected by mental illness are not receiving access to appropriate care. Where left untreated, treated late, or treated poorly, negative consequences can result including school/work failure, strained relationships, hospitalization, suicide, homelessness, legal problems, and violence.
Mental, emotional, and behavioral disorders among youth cost $247 billion annually in mental health and health services, lost productivity, and crime. Prevention and early interventions can bring significant return on investment, by reducing demand for services in the mental health system and also in other sectors. Infants, children, and youth are best reached at home, school or post-secondary institutions through broad programs that promote mental health for all, complemented by targeted prevention programs for those at highest risk due to factors such as poverty, having a parent with a mental health or substance use problem, or family violence.