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Mental health literacy is high, but stigma still rules

Released in April 2010, the Kids Help Phone study, Mental Health in Canada: Kids Talk About Mental Health, shows that providing mental health education and facts isn't sufficient to break through fear and stigma. While 75% of youth show good general knowledge of mental health issues, only 50% would consider reaching out if they were struggling with intense feelings.

One out of every four kids who reached out to Kids Help Phone in 2009 had concerns related to mental health. Kids Help Phone wanted to understand whether young people were able to tell the difference between normal-range feelings and behaviours, and the signs of something more serious, and how they felt about reaching out and treatment

The three types of mental health concerns explored in the survey were depression, anxiety, and eating disorders.  These were identified as particularly relevant to the youth population Kids Help Phone serves, based on the large number of related calls and posts received.

Although the majority of the respondents to the Kids Help Phone Mental Health Literacy survey were well able to correctly answer questions related to general knowledge of mental health issues, half of them stated that they would not reach out for help from people close to them if they were struggling. 

These are their words:

  • because I don’t want to burden my loved ones with my problems.
  • I would feel like I was weak for not being able to get over it on my own.
  • I would make people sad and they would think I'm broken
  • theres no one out there I trust enough to tell and I don't want to seem like a stupid kid.**

The critical importance of an anonymous and confidential service is evidenced by the young people of the survey who clearly state the three conditions needed to make reaching out a possibility:

  • Having the reassurance that all you say stays secret
  • Knowing that you wouldn’t be judged
  • Knowing that you could actually get the help you need to feel better.

Access the full report.

* post from Kids Help Phone Ask Us Online counselling service, edited to protect the anonymity of the client
** quotes from respondents to the 2010 Kids Help Phone survey on Mental Health

Brenda called Kid's Help Phone to vent about her parents. She said they were being unreasonable by not allowing her to meet a boy. The 15-year-old was considering sneaking out anyway. A few questions revealed that the boy was someone she'd "met" on the Internet – and that he'd first said he was 15, but was actually 29. The KHP counselor talked about Brenda's natural curiosity, but also about possible dangers. It didn't take long for Brenda to admit to having "funny feelings" about it. By the end of the call, she'd decided to try to find someone her own age, met the "old-fashioned" way. Mike told us he was traveling fast on the road to nowhere. He wanted to get off drugs and off the streets. The KHP counselor calmed Mike, assessed his needs, and found him a safe shelter. Years later, Mike called again. Now 20, he was back in school, with a steady job and a new life. He was calling to say thanks – not just for what KHP had done, but most of all for listening to him and believing in him. Mike says KHP helped him turn his life around. Today, he spends his spare time helping street youth. Ten-year-old Megan was being sexually and physically abused. Two nights earlier, she'd been placed in a foster home, but didn't feel comfortable talking to her foster parents yet. With gentle prompting, Megan began to tell her story. Her feelings were agonizingly mixed. Despite everything, she missed her mom's bedtime stories and the familiarity of home. It meant a lot to be able to talk about her feelings with someone she could trust. Together, Megan and KHP looked at what Megan could do to make things easier, like getting bedtime stories on tape. She was grateful to be reminded that her foster home would become more familiar each day, and that KHP would be there whenever she needed it in the days ahead. Brenda called Kid's Help Phone to vent about her parents. She said they were being unreasonable by not allowing her to meet a boy. The 15-year-old was considering sneaking out anyway. A few questions revealed that the boy was someone she'd "met" on the Internet – and that he'd first said he was 15, but was actually 29. The KHP counselor talked about Brenda's natural curiosity, but also about possible dangers. It didn't take long for Brenda to admit to having "funny feelings" about it. By the end of the call, she'd decided to try to find someone her own age, met the "old-fashioned" way. Mike told us he was traveling fast on the road to nowhere. He wanted to get off drugs and off the streets. The KHP counselor calmed Mike, assessed his needs, and found him a safe shelter. Years later, Mike called again. Now 20, he was back in school, with a steady job and a new life. He was calling to say thanks – not just for what KHP had done, but most of all for listening to him and believing in him. Mike says KHP helped him turn his life around. Today, he spends his spare time helping street youth. Ten-year-old Megan was being sexually and physically abused. Two nights earlier, she'd been placed in a foster home, but didn't feel comfortable talking to her foster parents yet. With gentle prompting, Megan began to tell her story. Her feelings were agonizingly mixed. Despite everything, she missed her mom's bedtime stories and the familiarity of home. It meant a lot to be able to talk about her feelings with someone she could trust. Together, Megan and KHP looked at what Megan could do to make things easier, like getting bedtime stories on tape. She was grateful to be reminded that her foster home would become more familiar each day, and that KHP would be there whenever she needed it in the days ahead. Brenda called Kid's Help Phone to vent about her parents. She said they were being unreasonable by not allowing her to meet a boy. The 15-year-old was considering sneaking out anyway. A few questions revealed that the boy was someone she'd "met" on the Internet – and that he'd first said he was 15, but was actually 29. The KHP counselor talked about Brenda's natural curiosity, but also about possible dangers. It didn't take long for Brenda to admit to having "funny feelings" about it. By the end of the call, she'd decided to try to find someone her own age, met the "old-fashioned" way. Mike told us he was traveling fast on the road to nowhere. He wanted to get off drugs and off the streets. The KHP counselor calmed Mike, assessed his needs, and found him a safe shelter. Years later, Mike called again. Now 20, he was back in school, with a steady job and a new life. He was calling to say thanks – not just for what KHP had done, but most of all for listening to him and believing in him. Mike says KHP helped him turn his life around. Today, he spends his spare time helping street youth. Ten-year-old Megan was being sexually and physically abused. Two nights earlier, she'd been placed in a foster home, but didn't feel comfortable talking to her foster parents yet. With gentle prompting, Megan began to tell her story. Her feelings were agonizingly mixed. Despite everything, she missed her mom's bedtime stories and the familiarity of home. It meant a lot to be able to talk about her feelings with someone she could trust. Together, Megan and KHP looked at what Megan could do to make things easier, like getting bedtime stories on tape. She was grateful to be reminded that her foster home would become more familiar each day, and that KHP would be there whenever she needed it in the days ahead. Brenda called Kid's Help Phone to vent about her parents. She said they were being unreasonable by not allowing her to meet a boy. The 15-year-old was considering sneaking out anyway. A few questions revealed that the boy was someone she'd "met" on the Internet – and that he'd first said he was 15, but was actually 29. The KHP counselor talked about Brenda's natural curiosity, but also about possible dangers. It didn't take long for Brenda to admit to having "funny feelings" about it. By the end of the call, she'd decided to try to find someone her own age, met the "old-fashioned" way. Mike told us he was traveling fast on the road to nowhere. He wanted to get off drugs and off the streets. The KHP counselor calmed Mike, assessed his needs, and found him a safe shelter. Years later, Mike called again. Now 20, he was back in school, with a steady job and a new life. He was calling to say thanks – not just for what KHP had done, but most of all for listening to him and believing in him. Mike says KHP helped him turn his life around. Today, he spends his spare time helping street youth. Ten-year-old Megan was being sexually and physically abused. Two nights earlier, she'd been placed in a foster home, but didn't feel comfortable talking to her foster parents yet. With gentle prompting, Megan began to tell her story. Her feelings were agonizingly mixed. Despite everything, she missed her mom's bedtime stories and the familiarity of home. It meant a lot to be able to talk about her feelings with someone she could trust. Together, Megan and KHP looked at what Megan could do to make things easier, like getting bedtime stories on tape. She was grateful to be reminded that her foster home would become more familiar each day, and that KHP would be there whenever she needed it in the days ahead. Brenda called Kid's Help Phone to vent about her parents. She said they were being unreasonable by not allowing her to meet a boy. The 15-year-old was considering sneaking out anyway. A few questions revealed that the boy was someone she'd "met" on the Internet – and that he'd first said he was 15, but was actually 29. The KHP counselor talked about Brenda's natural curiosity, but also about possible dangers. It didn't take long for Brenda to admit to having "funny feelings" about it. By the end of the call, she'd decided to try to find someone her own age, met the "old-fashioned" way. Mike told us he was traveling fast on the road to nowhere. He wanted to get off drugs and off the streets. The KHP counselor calmed Mike, assessed his needs, and found him a safe shelter. Years later, Mike called again. Now 20, he was back in school, with a steady job and a new life. He was calling to say thanks – not just for what KHP had done, but most of all for listening to him and believing in him. Mike says KHP helped him turn his life around. Today, he spends his spare time helping street youth. Ten-year-old Megan was being sexually and physically abused. Two nights earlier, she'd been placed in a foster home, but didn't feel comfortable talking to her foster parents yet. With gentle prompting, Megan began to tell her story. Her feelings were agonizingly mixed. Despite everything, she missed her mom's bedtime stories and the familiarity of home. It meant a lot to be able to talk about her feelings with someone she could trust. Together, Megan and KHP looked at what Megan could do to make things easier, like getting bedtime stories on tape. She was grateful to be reminded that her foster home would become more familiar each day, and that KHP would be there whenever she needed it in the days ahead. Brenda called Kid's Help Phone to vent about her parents. She said they were being unreasonable by not allowing her to meet a boy. The 15-year-old was considering sneaking out anyway. A few questions revealed that the boy was someone she'd "met" on the Internet – and that he'd first said he was 15, but was actually 29. The KHP counselor talked about Brenda's natural curiosity, but also about possible dangers. It didn't take long for Brenda to admit to having "funny feelings" about it. By the end of the call, she'd decided to try to find someone her own age, met the "old-fashioned" way. Mike told us he was traveling fast on the road to nowhere. He wanted to get off drugs and off the streets. The KHP counselor calmed Mike, assessed his needs, and found him a safe shelter. Years later, Mike called again. Now 20, he was back in school, with a steady job and a new life. He was calling to say thanks – not just for what KHP had done, but most of all for listening to him and believing in him. Mike says KHP helped him turn his life around. Today, he spends his spare time helping street youth. Ten-year-old Megan was being sexually and physically abused. Two nights earlier, she'd been placed in a foster home, but didn't feel comfortable talking to her foster parents yet. With gentle prompting, Megan began to tell her story. Her feelings were agonizingly mixed. Despite everything, she missed her mom's bedtime stories and the familiarity of home. It meant a lot to be able to talk about her feelings with someone she could trust. Together, Megan and KHP looked at what Megan could do to make things easier, like getting bedtime stories on tape. She was grateful to be reminded that her foster home would become more familiar each day, and that KHP would be there whenever she needed it in the days ahead. Brenda called Kid's Help Phone to vent about her parents. She said they were being unreasonable by not allowing her to meet a boy. The 15-year-old was considering sneaking out anyway. A few questions revealed that the boy was someone she'd "met" on the Internet – and that he'd first said he was 15, but was actually 29. The KHP counselor talked about Brenda's natural curiosity, but also about possible dangers. It didn't take long for Brenda to admit to having "funny feelings" about it. By the end of the call, she'd decided to try to find someone her own age, met the "old-fashioned" way. Mike told us he was traveling fast on the road to nowhere. He wanted to get off drugs and off the streets. The KHP counselor calmed Mike, assessed his needs, and found him a safe shelter. Years later, Mike called again. Now 20, he was back in school, with a steady job and a new life. He was calling to say thanks – not just for what KHP had done, but most of all for listening to him and believing in him. Mike says KHP helped him turn his life around. Today, he spends his spare time helping street youth. Ten-year-old Megan was being sexually and physically abused. Two nights earlier, she'd been placed in a foster home, but didn't feel comfortable talking to her foster parents yet. With gentle prompting, Megan began to tell her story. Her feelings were agonizingly mixed. Despite everything, she missed her mom's bedtime stories and the familiarity of home. It meant a lot to be able to talk about her feelings with someone she could trust. Together, Megan and KHP looked at what Megan could do to make things easier, like getting bedtime stories on tape. She was grateful to be reminded that her foster home would become more familiar each day, and that KHP would be there whenever she needed it in the days ahead. Brenda called Kid's Help Phone to vent about her parents. She said they were being unreasonable by not allowing her to meet a boy. The 15-year-old was considering sneaking out anyway. A few questions revealed that the boy was someone she'd "met" on the Internet – and that he'd first said he was 15, but was actually 29. The KHP counselor talked about Brenda's natural curiosity, but also about possible dangers. It didn't take long for Brenda to admit to having "funny feelings" about it. By the end of the call, she'd decided to try to find someone her own age, met the "old-fashioned" way. Mike told us he was traveling fast on the road to nowhere. He wanted to get off drugs and off the streets. The KHP counselor calmed Mike, assessed his needs, and found him a safe shelter. Years later, Mike called again. Now 20, he was back in school, with a steady job and a new life. He was calling to say thanks – not just for what KHP had done, but most of all for listening to him and believing in him. Mike says KHP helped him turn his life around. Today, he spends his spare time helping street youth. Ten-year-old Megan was being sexually and physically abused. Two nights earlier, she'd been placed in a foster home, but didn't feel comfortable talking to her foster parents yet. With gentle prompting, Megan began to tell her story. Her feelings were agonizingly mixed. Despite everything, she missed her mom's bedtime stories and the familiarity of home. It meant a lot to be able to talk about her feelings with someone she could trust. Together, Megan and KHP looked at what Megan could do to make things easier, like getting bedtime stories on tape. She was grateful to be reminded that her foster home would become more familiar each day, and that KHP would be there whenever she needed it in the days ahead.