Mental health is one of the most important issues facing youth and society at large. If universities are not rallying everyone from every corner of their campus to solve this problem, they are ignoring the canary in the coal mine, at their peril. They will also not be helping to solve the issues of critical importance to their communities and their country, at their peril. Children and youth are our truth-tellers, whether or not we are listening, as the climate crisis demonstrates. Rates of psychological distress, anxiety, depression, suicidal behaviours are rising, as we watch and wait, in our children and youth. As biologist E.O. Wilson said, “Let us see how high we can fly before the sun melts the wax in our wings.” Is that what we are waiting for?
According to the World Health Organization, mental health is more than the absence of mental illness. It is “a state of well-being in which every individual realizes their own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to their community.”
Youth mental health and illness-care providers and researchers are passionate; however, the supply and resources do not meet the demand, and many are inspired but tired. The mental health system for children and youth, including emerging adults and postsecondary students, languishes in the shadows, feeding on the scraps. Severe and persistent mental illness and substance use disorders threaten the lives, health and mental health not only of sufferers, but of their families and friends.