Canadian Youth Are Suffering, And We Need Your Help

Dear Canada,

We are the youth of your great landscape. We count on you for support. We like to think of you as one of the greatest countries to live in. I should know, because I have grown up right here in Ontario. I have such happy memories of tobogganing on hills in the winter snow, visiting water parks in the summer and enjoying my childhood. You remind us of inclusivity, pride and having an overall happy population. Sadly, all of this is far from the reality of the situation. The truth is, you are not taking enough action to acknowledge or support the well-being and mental health of your youth.

During a workshop I attended at UNICEF Canada with one of my best friends last May, I was shocked to learn that out of 29 of the world’s richest countries, Canada ranked just 24th for children’s satisfaction in life. This means that our youth are among some of the unhappiest in the richest countries in the world. I never used to think of this country as an unhappy place, but the more I thought about it and further researched the issue, the more it became clear.

The issue of well-being goes deeper than simply a lack of satisfaction in life. We are lacking in all aspects of youth wellness, which includes everything from ones’ physical health and nutrition to their spiritual health and level of happiness. The mental health of our youth has been declining in recent years. According to UNICEF Canada, more than 22 per cent of young people report mental health related symptoms more than once a week. As a result, the future of Canada itself is facing a serious predicament, and its time you took notice before its too late.

Canada, you must care for your youth! Mental illness among youth is causing more and more children to resort to self harm, or worse, suicide. In addition to reading about this issue, I have seen the struggle first-hand with friends and people I’ve known my whole life. Under the surface of your prideful red and white flag, there is an immense unhappiness that needs to be addressed. We cannot fight this battle alone. We need your support.

We are more disconnected than ever, and technology is not helping to combat this issue.

Don’t forget, we are the future of this country. We are the ones who will continue, and build upon, your legacy. We deserve the right to enjoy all the freedom and opportunity that you have to offer us, but how are we supposed to do so if our well-being is in such a great decline?

Canada, you must communicate with your youth! Out of 28 of the world’s most industrialized countries, you came 25th in child relationships with parents and peers. This means we are more disconnected than ever, and technology is not helping to combat this issue. Parents and youth need to put down their phones and talk to one another. Friends need to stop checking social media for updates and instead, call up their peers to ask if they’re all right.

Listening is the first step in reversing this overwhelming issue. Our ideas are important. You will find that if you choose to listen to your young people, the overwhelming epidemic of mental illness in our nation will begin to recede. How do you expect to continue to prosper if the struggles of your youth are going unnoticed? Act, Canada! This is your future too.

Canada, you must mentor your youth! Listen and learn to value a young, fresh idea even when it comes from a teenager you may think is naive to the world. You must learn that youth does not equate to ignorance, and see that our ideas are important. Recognize that we have new perspectives and creative thoughts to contribute to our nation. You should provide more mentoring opportunities for struggling kids and offer interesting co-op opportunities to integrate young minds into adult professional environments. We have concerns and those concerns demand to be respected. Allow youth to bloom.

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With a caring attitude, better communication and mentoring, your landscape would become revitalized. The well-being of youth is crucial in creating a better, happier future for all of us. Start changing your ways today for a brighter tomorrow.

Sincerely,

The youth of Canada.

This letter was written by Aisling, 17, from Toronto.

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Author: UNICEF Canada