Youth and stress

Youth and mental health disorders

Experts to the rescue: Do youths really know what mental health problems are all about?

By Julie-Katia Morin-Major

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:

  • tiredness
  • thoughts of death
  • lack of self-confidence 
  • 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