Studying Stress: Decreasing Prevalence of Mental Illness in Youth

Mental Health in Youth: What is going on?

You’ve probably heard Youth are “moody”, “going through a phase”, or “experimenting”. In context, these things have been true for hundreds of years: Youth seek independence, and with puberty and raging hormones comes the desire to try new things, meet new people, and start doing all the things they couldn’t before. However, in the past few years with the rise of technology, the internet, and social media, even more stress has been placed on Youth who are still trying to find their place in this world. Snapchat, Instagram, Wechat, Facetime, Facebook, every little thing teenagers do is constantly uploaded to the web, accessible to everyone. Their growing brains are being bombarded by images, videos, messages, emails, calls, and there is seemingly no time to stop and think.

However, in the past few years with the rise of technology, the internet, and social media, even more stress has been placed on Youth who are still trying to find their place in this world. Snapchat, Instagram, Wechat, Facetime, Facebook, every little thing teenagers do is constantly uploaded to the web, accessible to everyone. Their growing brains are being bombarded by images, videos, messages, emails, calls, and there is seemingly no time to stop and think.

But I’ve been talking in third-person for the past few paragraphs. The Youth of today, or the “Gen Z’s”, as we have called ourselves, is my generation. We are the generation who grew up alongside the internet, when the first iPhone came out, when Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat were all born. But with all the wonders of technology come the drawbacks. Economies are rocky, Politicians lie and brainwash, weapons have become sophisticated, and most of all, the school system has become more competitive and stressful than ever before. With all of these things Youth are attacked with, it’s no wonder Mental illness is also more prevalent. In this project, I will explore Mental Health in Post-Secondary Education, and how I believe we can fix this problem.

Before we begin, feel free to take this short quiz to test your knowledge on the topic we’ll be discussing.

What Youth think: a Case Study

With University applications, Advanced Placement courses, social media, body image, peer pressure and managing an expanding work-load; it’s clear secondary school is a stressful place to be. According to the following case study, it is clear many of my peers and people in the community feel the same way.

In order to better understand mental illness in my community – the secondary schools of Vancouver, B.C. – I decided to conduct a survey of the students here, and their opinions on mental health and the actions that are being taken to improve it within their schools.

My study was taken via anonymous online survey, to gauge how much students actually knew about mental health in Canada. Below are the results of this survey: I was concerned but not surprised by the answers I received.

I found only 25% of the students knew the correct number of youth living with a mental illness/disorder in Canada. This is interesting since it means the majority of youth think more people struggle with mental illness than actually do. This could explain the decrease in stigma around mental health in the ‘Gen Z’ era. As well, the majority of the students correctly identified the three most prevalent mental illnesses in youth today, with anxiety being the first choice of almost 90% of the students. The answer to this made it clear that although it may be just as prevalent as the other two, in students minds it was the most worrying. 100% of the students correctly identified that there are many factors that can lead someone to develop a mental illness, which establishes the understanding for the origins of mental illness that may not have existed in the past fifty years. Finally, 100% of the students have themselves, know, or know of someone who has struggled with mental illness. Of course, this only strengthens my original argument that mental illness in secondary school students is on the rise, and we must take action to keep it in check.

Question: What percentage of Canadian Youth are affected by a mental illness or disorder?
Correct Answer: 10-20%

Question: What are the three most prevalent mental illnesses in Youth today? Correct Answer: eating, major depressive, anxiety disorders.

Question: What can cause someone to develop a Mental Illness? Correct Answer: All of these.

Question: Have you, or someone you know personally/generally experienced mental illness?

“A child’s mental health is just as important as their physical health and deserves the same quality of support.”

– Kate Middleton

The challenges we face concerning Mental Health today are those that we are unprepared and unequipped to deal with. But before we can understand how to fix these problems, we have to understand just exactly what we’re dealing with.

In the talk below, Kevin Breel talks about his struggles with Depression, and how Mental illness is anything but a ‘phase’.

So: what are the most prevalent mental illnesses in Youth today?

Below, I’d like to provide background on the three disorders I mentioned earlier, in order to more fully understand the seriousness of mental health in youth.


Anxiety is a normal human emotion, and has been and still is helpful to motivate us to get things done. However, if someone is struggling with anxiety disorder, feelings of anxiety and panic interfere with daily activities, are difficult to control, are out of proportion to the actual danger and can last a long time. Symptoms may start during childhood or the teen years and continue into adulthood. Symptoms of anxiety can include but are not limited to: feeling nervous, restless or tense, hyperventilation, trouble concentrating, insomnia, having difficulty controlling worry, or feeling weak/tired. Causes of anxiety disorders aren’t fully understood but are commonly linked to experiences such as traumatic events, and inherited traits also can be a factor. Anxiety can also be a side effect of medical conditions and some medications. There are many kinds of Anxiety, including Generalized anxiety disorder, Social Anxiety disorder, and Agoraphobia. Anxiety is most commonly linked to depression and can lead to Major Depressive disorder if left untreated. You should seek treatment if your fear, worry or anxiety is upsetting to you and difficult to control, you think your anxiety could be linked to a physical health problem, or you have suicidal thoughts or behaviours. In order to prevent Anxiety disorders, stay active, act early if you feel stressed, and avoid alcohol or drug use if you’re already prone to anxiety.


Depression is a mood disorder that causes a persistent feeling of sadness and loss of interest in daily activities. It is also called Major Depressive disorder, and it affects daily functioning, and sometimes you may feel that life isn’t worth living. People typically have multiple episodes of depression, and symptoms can occur for a long period of time chronically, and can include: feelings of sadness, hopelessness, loss of interest or pleasure in normal activities, insomnia/hypersomnia, rapid weight loss/weight gain, Anxiety, frequent suicidal thoughts, and suicide attempts or suicide. In youth, depression symptoms can have some differences. Youth can experience feeling worthless, anger, poor performance/attendance at school, feeling extremely sensitive, using recreational drugs or alcohol, eating or sleeping too much, self-harm, and avoidance of social interaction. In teens, symptoms may include sadness, irritability, feeling negative and worthless, anger, poor performance or poor attendance at school, feeling misunderstood and extremely sensitive, using recreational drugs or alcohol, eating or sleeping too much, self-harm, loss of interest in normal activities, and avoidance of social interaction. If you feel depressed, make an appointment to see a mental health professional as soon as you can, or talk to a friend or loved one, or someone else you trust. If you think you may hurt yourself or attempt suicide, call 911 immediately. Depression, as with many mental disorders, can be caused by many things, including brain chemistry, hormones, inherited traits, and social and cognitive experiences. Depression often gets worse if it isn’t treated, resulting in problems that affect every area of your life. Prevention steps you can take include controlling stress, reaching out to family and friends, and getting treatment at the earliest sign of a problem.

Eating disorders

Eating disorders are mental illnesses that effect your eating behaviours, and therefore negatively impacts your health, emotions and development. The most common eating disorders are anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and binge-eating disorder. In all of these disorders, the amount of nutrition received is impacted, and therefore effects your heart, digestive system, bones, and teeth. For more specific symptoms and treatment options, please see the following links:

Anorexia Nervosa:

Bulimia Nervosa:

Binge-Eating disorder:

Genetics, biology, and physical and emotional health can all be factors of developing an eating disorder. Teenage girls and young women are most likely to develop an eating disorder, and dieting, stress, other mental health disorders, and family history can all play a part. Eating disorders can be difficult to treat on your own, and you should seek medical attention if you feel overwhelmed. If a loved one is experiencing an eating disorder, they may not want to seek treatment. Express your concern, and make sure they know you are non-judgemental and ready to listen.

What happens next?

With all that we now know from the case study above and research, what is the best course of action to take?

I sat down with four students to find out what we are already doing, and what we can do in the future to improve the mental health and stability of our students in secondary education systems, in my community of Vancouver, B.C. The four students have asked their schools not be mentioned, but their statements will not be altered in any way.


Naomi is a Grade Eleven student in Vancouver, B.C. At her school, they have a Wellness Council for students to come and express their concerns about Mental Health and well-being at her school: but she only knows about it because her friends are on it, and she worries only a few students even know it exists; and if they did there’s stigma around Mental illness at her school, so not many would go anyway. She thinks they need to raise awareness for the Wellness Council, and thinks “if students are more supportive to each other and try to empathize with their peers, schools would have much better environments.”


Avrel is a Grade Eleven student in my community, and at her school, the administration often invites speakers to come to talk to them about mental illnesses in youth, encourages them to seek help, and tries to teach them ways to manage stress and anxiety. Her school is pretty open about mental illness, but she feels more open discussions with students and teachers would improve the education side of things. She wants to let people know to check in with their friends, make sure the people around them are doing okay, and start a discussion.


Elena is a Grade Eleven student and has a generally negative view of mental health awareness at her school. She says they have counsellors, but their main purpose is for helping people with schoolwork and University applications, so there’s no one really to talk to about personal matters. She thinks her school “talks about [mental health] a lot but we don’t actually do anything. The action seems to be lacking.” She feels very strongly that students need to be more open-minded; to not assume someone is okay – what they choose to share with the world (their facade) is extremely surface level, and you never know what someone is going through. At her school, she believes social media has done a lot of damage and should be controlled.


Jessica is a Grade Eleven students in the Lower Mainland and is well versed in mental health awareness. Her school has a charity called ‘Adam’s Apples’, a charity founded by the family of Adam Hryhorchuk, who passed away from an accidental drug overdose. The purpose of the foundation is to promote positive interaction between youth and has steadily worked itself into schools since its inception in 2015. (read more about it here: Avrel emphasized the importance of improving the education on mental health and wellness in schools: she thought the staff, and school curriculum could improve the methods they teach managing stress and anxiety, and having a balanced and healthy lifestyle. She thinks students need to “…accept and realize that your mental health is important and matters less than things like grades and after-school activities.”

A Potential Solution

From both the online survey and my interviews with students in my community, I have established the beginning of a solution that is anything but finished: we should be continually reviewing and consulting the thoughts of our communities and working together to prevent mental illness.

Students are aware of the prevalence of mental illness, and firmly believe education should be bettered in order to teach youth how to combat disorders that, if left untreated, they can struggle with continuously in their adult life. They believe simply talking about mental health, and having the option to stop and consider the problem isn’t enough.

From all of this, the solution is clear: implement mental health awareness and sessions in which students can learn about mental health in a classroom setting, just as they would learn about biology or physical ailments. When I expressed this solution, the interviewees agreed, the classes should not all be mandatory since teenagers are known to naturally rebel against things they are forced to do. Instead, make it a fun experience where students can come as they wish to discussion periods, and include some sessions in their class time for other subjects. About this, Avrel said “…I think we need to talk about [mental health] using examples of situations that will come up in everyday life. This is because, in my experience, everyone supports mental wealth awareness until grades or co-curriculars come into the picture.” These sessions would include coping mechanisms, symtpoms, recognizing symptoms in others, and when to seek help.

Essentially, if we are attempting a grassroots approach, we need to implement self-care, mental health and awareness, and mental illness education into class time in all secondary schools in Canada, if not in the Lower Mainland. By putting the sessions during school time this only further strengthens the idea mental health is prioritized over schoolwork. Secondary school students should know they are supported, and that their mental health comes before anything else.

Please take this quiz so I can see what you’ve learned from my project!

What to take away

Abnormal Psychology, my fellow GOA students, and the opportunity to share my opinions and work with others: these are all things I have been grateful for in the duration of this project! Looking for ways to help within your own community is important, and I hope this project has inspired you in some way, shape, or form. But its also crucial to remember the bigger picture. I wanted to remind you all about the Sustainable Development Goals (or SDG’s) from the United Nations, and how our individual actions are making these goals a reality. For example, for my own project, I considered the SDG’s Good Health and Well-Being, as well as Quality Education, as they were the most relevant. However, I would also argue almost every other aspect of our lives is related to good health and well being, and therefore every other SDG is related to it as well. From my research and personal experiences, it is my belief we can stop the prevalence of mental illness and the continuation of poor mental health into adulthood, and I hope I have convinced you as well.

To learn more about SDG’s, visit the UN website:

Thank you for reading my project! I’m so glad you’ve taken the time to read about my experience with mental illness, and what we can do about it in our western post-secondary education system. My name is Evie, and I live in Vancouver, B.C., Canada. I’m an advocate for mental health and well-being and invite everyone to join the fight against the stigma around mental health.

Works Cited

“6 Common Triggers of Teen Stress.” – Mental Health Treatment Resource Since 1986,

“Addressing Mental Health in the Bay Area High Schools.” GOA Catalyst Conference,

“Anxiety.” HealthLink BC,

“Anxiety: Stop Negative Thoughts.” HealthLink BC,

“Check Your Symptoms.” HealthLink BC,

Children & Youth Mental Health Services,

“Depression in Children and Teens.” HealthLink BC,

“Fast Facts about Mental Illness.” CMHA National,

“Helping Someone During a Panic Attack.” HealthLink BC,

“Mental Health Archives.” CMHA National,

“Mental Health.” HealthLink BC, 8 Apr. 2019,

“Screen Time Is Associated with Depression and Anxiety in Canadian Youth.” Preventive Medicine, Academic Press, 2 Feb. 2015,

“Teen Stress Is on the Rise: Why It’s a Major Problem, and How You Can Help.”,

“Teens’ Stress Is Higher Than Ever.” Children’s Resource Group,

“The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health.” CAMH,

“Why Are Teens So Stressed and What Can Break the Cycle?” Psychology Today, Sussex Publishers,

“Youth Mental Health Stats in Canada – Youth Mental Health Canada.” Youth Mental Health Canada,

“Anxiety Disorder Infographic.”,

Breel, Kevin. “Confessions of a Depressed Comic.” TED,

Farkas, Posted by Terezia. “Depression Infographic.” Depression Help,

“Find a Treatment Facility.” CRC Health Group,

“The Mental Health Crisis In Our Schools.” NPR, NPR,

Virzi, Juliette. “25 ‘Harmless’ Comments That Actually Hurt People With Mental Illness.” The Mighty, 10 Apr. 2019, “Prioritizing Culture and Colour in Mental Health Services.”

The McGill Tribune, 14 Jan. 2019,

Share this project
  1. April 25, 2019 by Abigail.Carlton

    Hi Genevieve! You did a great job on your project! There is a lot of helpful and insightful information. What made you presentation stick out was the number of visuals you included. It made the project interesting and easy to navigate. You did a great job!

    • April 25, 2019 by Genevieve.Tomita

      Thank you so much! I thought there may have been a few too many, but wanted to include as many as possible, that’s really helpful!

  2. April 29, 2019 by Sophia Beardsley

    Hey this project was amazing. Your page was well set up and the amount of visuals you put up was perfect. I loved the polls you did that added a researcher touch. Overall amazing job.

  3. April 29, 2019 by Kyra Geschke

    Hi! This was an awesome project and it turned out so well!!! I love how you connected the project to yourself to make clear your experience with the issue at hand. The TED talk you added was a great touch, super interesting and a great addition to your project.

    • April 29, 2019 by Evie Tomita

      Thank you Kyra! The TED talk was my favourite part as well 🙂

  4. April 30, 2019 by Merrill.Buczek

    Hi Evie, this information is very useful and relevant! I love how in depth you went on this project. The Infograms are super helpful!

  5. May 03, 2019 by Daisy.Huang

    Congratulations on your award! On the note of the students you personally asked about mental health, it’s really interesting how 4 different people at the same school have such different views on how admin deals with mental health

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