On November 10th, 2014, CAMH organized a webinar to review the highlights of the results from the 2013 Ontario Student Drug Use and Health Survey (OSDUHS). The OSDUHS was started in 1977, making it Canada’s longest ongoing student survey. It also happens to be the longest in the world! The survey is conducted every two years, and looks at mental health, drug use, physical health, bullying and other risky behaviours among students who are in grades 7-12.
The webinar discussed some alarming results about Ontario students’ emotional and mental health indicators. For example, over 14% of students self-rated their own mental health as only “fair” or “poor”, as opposed to “good”, “very good”, or “excellent”. Females were significantly more likely than males to rate their mental health as “fair” or “poor”. Further, over one quarter reported a moderate to high level of psychological distress during the past month. Again, females were twice as likely to report psychological distress than males. Even more alarmingly, over 13% of students said they had seriously contemplated suicide over the past one year, while 3.5% actually attempted it within the past year. Once again, female students were twice as likely to contemplate and attempt suicide than their male counterparts. The survey results consistently showed that data for female students was very different than for males, indicating a potential need to have gender-specific programs for teens.
What does this mean for Ontario’s youth mental health? Although the majority of Ontario students report good (or better) mental health, this data clearly shows that there are gaps that need to be filled. Increased mental health services aimed at teenagers in particular may be part of the solution. For example, PAD’s Strengthening Families for Parents and Youth (SFPY) program has been proven to produce better mental health outcomes in teens. Learn more about the SFPY program at sfpy-pad.org, or check it out on Twitter at @_sfpy.