Experts to the rescue: Do youths really know what mental health problems are all about?
As part of the DeStress for Success© program, we believed it was
important to learn what youths thought and know about mental health
problems. This is why we asked 176 youths to answer a questionnaire on
this subject. After going through their answers, we clearly saw that
youths have some misconceptions about certain mental health problems
such as depression, anxiety disorders, substance abuse, schizophrenia
and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). They are not, however, the only
ones to uphold these images. In fact, we often hear that individuals
who suffer from OCD are scared of everything or that tobacco addiction
is not a drug addiction. Fact or fiction? To answer all these questions
and to learn more about mental health problems, we interviewed six
mental health experts.
Currently, depression touches about 10% to 15% of adolescents, a
number that grows constantly every year. As we face this troubling
trend, it is important to inform children and adolescents about this
disorder and help them learn how to detect it. After analyzing the
questionnaires, we can state that 88% of the youths had some idea about
what depression is. Although they were good at detecting symptoms, they
ignore that girls are twice as likely to experience depression.
Most surveyed youths thought depression had something to do with being
sad or tired. They also thought it was accompanied by a loss of
interest, the impression that everything is going wrong and even
suicidal ideas. According to Dr. Stéphane Kunicki, head of the intensive
care unit at Louis-H. Lafontaine Hospital, they are not wrong.
Actually, depression is defined by two main criteria that include
sadness and anhedonia (lack of interest). Depression is also accompanied
with certain criteria such as:
- thoughts of death
- lack of
- appetite changes.
Psychologist Isabelle Lajoie likes to use the following image to
help people understand how depression is experienced: "Picture yourself
with a friend in front of a breathtaking scenery. Unfortunately, your
friend is wearing very dark glasses. Even if you describe how the colors
are vivacious, he/she will not understand because they see everything
in dark shades. It is the same thing for someone who suffers from
depression. No matter how beautiful, fun and stimulating life really is,
the person who suffers from depression cannot see it this way because
he/she does not live things the same way".
In brief, even if depression is a taboo subject these days, probably
because it is not well understood and stigmatized, youths can still
correctly identify many signs and symptoms of this disorder. However,
other mental health problems are not as well understood by adolescents.
Next page: Anxiety disorders