Children Unheard and the importance of youth mental health

(Courtesy of Children Unheard)

According to Youth Mental Health Canada (YMHC), it is estimated that 1.2 million children and youth across the nation suffer from mental illness, but less than 20 per cent of those affected will receive the proper treatment. The lack of proper help and recognition that currently surrounds mental health among Canadian youth shows a need for change, as YMHC also reports that Canada’s youth suicide rate is the third highest in the industrialized world.

The current circumstances that youths are living in, with the restrictions implemented because of COVID-19, do not help youth mental health rates. In 2019, Statistics Canada found that over half of participants aged 15 to 17 believed their mental health was worse than it was before COVID-19. It also found that when asked to rate their mental health from excellent, very good, good, fair, or poor, almost one in five children from the same age group reported their mental health to be fair or poor. Seven per cent of participants from the ages of 12 to 14 also reported their mental health to be either fair or poor. 

A York student is now beginning to spread awareness on the importance of mental health in Canadian youths.

Pasquale Scola, a third-year law & society and philosophy student, created the non-profit organization Children Unheard to spread awareness about youth trauma and mental health. 

“I founded Children Unheard to create a positive learning environment for those personally affected by childhood trauma, or those interested in becoming more well-informed on this information,” says Scola.

The organization takes an online approach as its Instagram account is its main source of spreading awareness. On this, Scola says, “Between virtual school and leisure time activities, children spend most of their time online. It is a necessity that more positive resources are available for children to interact with.” In the future, Scola hopes that the organization will be able to expand its initiatives to interactive activities with children in the community and starting fundraisers. 

“Working as a swimming instructor allowed me to understand that when a child is put in a positive environment, given all the resources and instruction required, they can achieve anything,” continues Scola. From interacting with children of different backgrounds, Scola was able to gain an understanding of the ways in which children can be affected if they are victims of trauma.

Scola believes that spreading awareness on this issue is important because “children are the future of our society, and if they have a positive outlook on life from a young age then they will be able to provide the same for the generation that comes after them.”

Currently, Scola has put together a team of other students to help within the organization that also understand the importance of spreading awareness of mental health in youth. Many of these volunteers have also worked or volunteered with children or are studying a subject in school that includes topics about childhood trauma and mental health. 

Vanessa Volpi, the design director of Children Unheard, is a concurrent education and psychology student. She has worked with children for many years as a camp counsellor and volunteering for teachers in their classroom. She joined the organization to “provide a comfortable and supportive environment for children to thrive in.”

The organization is targeted towards not only children, but all other groups within the community, as its goal is to educate all members of society and create an understanding environment. As Scola says, “The more people that become aware about childhood trauma, a snowball effect can form, and more people will be able to create a positive environment for those around them.” 

By spreading awareness, Scola and his team hope that Children Unheard will allow those who are not already educated, to educate themselves on this issue and turn that knowledge into action. 

Those who wish to learn more about or get involved with Children Unheard can visit their website, or their Instagram page.

About the Author

By Julia Cesario


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