Sudbury

Sudbury student encourages peers to 'find your support system' during Children's Mental Health Week

Students in Sudbury are stepping up to tell their own stories of struggling with mental health during Children's Mental Health Week.

Students relate personal struggles with mental illness during city's official proclomation

Sudbury students hold up a link of bracelets during Child and Youth Mental Health Week. Each bracelet was marked with the name of someone they count as a support, or someone they know who has struggled with mental illness. (Casey Stranges CBC)

Students in Sudbury are stepping up to tell their own stories of struggling with mental health during Children's Mental Health Week.

Sudbury's mayor Brian Bigger officially proclaimed the city's recognition of the week Monday morning in a ceremony at the Sudbury Indie Cinema Co-op.

Megan Dumais, a director at the Child and Family Center, the organization that is leading the Sudbury event, told CBC News that the goal of Children's Mental Health Week is to raise awareness of mental health issues, as well as highlighting people who make up the support network in the kids' health sector.

"It's an opportunity to celebrate the caregivers, the people that work with children who experience mental health challenges, the schools and other community services," she said.

"It's a hard job. It's a hard job and it's a tough job, but it's a rewarding job."

The centre estimates that one in five children in Ontario will experience some form of mental health issue. It also states that 28 per cent of students report that they are unsure who to turn to when issues arise.

Chase Scully, a grade 11 students at Sudbury Secondary School, says he's encouraged by how progressive the city has been in recognizing the mental health struggles of youth. (Casey Stranges CBC)

Find your support system, student says

Having a clear idea of your support network is one of the keys to getting through the bad days, Chase Scully, a Grade 11 student at Sudbury Secondary School said.

Scully said he struggled mentally as he came to terms with his identity. Scully came out as a trans person to one of his closest confidants, his grandmother.

"I felt happy that I started to know who I was but it was also scary," Scully said. "What is my Christian grandma going to think of me? What what about my friends? What are they going to think about me when I come out as a trans person?"

Although he said he lost friends, and endured abusive behaviour from his girlfriend at the time, he said the closest people in her network accepted him, including his grandmother.

"She was like 'Oh you're my grandson.' And I was like 'yeah.' But my biggest support would be my grandma and my dad."

Scully now offers some advice to others who may be going through similar situations.

"I tell them to find their support system and what they can use when they're upset or and in a bad head space," he said.

"You need to find the things that you like to do. That helps you and the people that are always there for you no matter what even if it's through your bad times or your good times."

Scully also wants parents to know what to look for if they have concerns about their children's health.

"They can help just by trying to understand and asking questions and checking in because just knowing that someone is there is probably the best thing that you can do for someone...just being there for them."

Vincent Bolt says Sudbury provides several resources for youth, options that weren't available to him when he was struggling with mental health issues. (Casey Stranges CBC)

Understanding signs of mental illness in children

Vincent Bolt, who sits on the Child and Family Centre's board, has been part of the committee that plans Children's Mental Health for three years. He said there are currently several resources in the community to help youth get through.

"The Child and Family Center has counseling services for children and for youth and for parents and families that are looking for support," Bolt said. "There's the Mind Space which is a drop-in service for children, adolescents and their parents to look for mental health supports."

Bolt said that parents can also be proactive by taking a look at their children's behaviour.

"Sometimes it's changes in behavior although you do expect some changes with puberty and hormones and all of that," he said.

"But if your child is avoiding coming out of the room if they are acting out and sometimes acting out is really them saying 'I want attention. I want help. I need support ...could be telltale signs."

"In my own youth when I was struggling with mental health I resorted to a lot of self-harm," he said "So I stopped wearing short-sleeved shirts and I spent a lot of time hiding away in my room and doing things that were not really productive."

About the Author

Casey Stranges is a reporter based in Sudbury. casey.stranges@cbc.ca

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