Category Archives: #education

Youth and mental illness.

“You keep finding dead ends to what you thought were good beginnings”

Life can be agonizingly difficult during a depression and/or anxiety episode. I am lucky that my experiences are limited to ‘curable’ episodes (typically lasting a few months). For some people, the symptoms never go away. I am also lucky to be an ‘adult’ in my 40’s with a fair amount of life experience, a loving family network, and a large (very large) amount of therapy and medication behind me. It must be so hard for children experiencing the same illness. It’s a testament to the strength of the young that any of them make it through at all. It is this strength that we now see rising up again and again in the form of youth who are coming forward and talking about their experiences with mental illness. The courage of these young role-models never ceases to amaze me as they make use of social media platforms to get the word out there… “mental illness can and does affect anyone! So, let’s talk about it…”

So I turn the rest of this blog post over to a talented young (13 years old!) advocate called Olivia. This is her ‘Slam’ poem in which she bravely and insightfully shares her experiences with some very problematic mental health. Her words speak for themselves, so I will say no more…

At just the age of 4,
I was already having anxiety about every little thing in my kindergarten class.
Whether it was taking the attendance down
or sharing something in a circle.
I always felt nervous.
At the age of 8,
I felt the need to be perfect with all the work that I did
because the last thing that I wanted was
to be laughed at.
When a test was being handed back,
I could feel my teacher’s eyes burning on the back of my head.
I could see a gleaming red ‘A’.
But later in the day,
peers were telling me that I did worse than them
as my worth was merely something to compare to.


At the age of 12,
I was more worried about the routine I had to do every night than my homework. All my books must be an odd number.
My laptop must be clean.
My bed needed to be made perfectly.
These routines anchored each passing day
and tricked me into thinking that my anxiety would go away
Now, at the age of 13, all of this combined is my reality.
Every little thing you can think of in a day, make me nervous in some way.
Even simply getting on the bus…
All I can think about is the hundreds of things my bus driver might say to me.
Before a presentation,
I find myself slowly shaking to the point where its uncontrollable. I can see the sweat on my hands leaving marks on the table. 
And then my name is called…
I find myself slowly moving to the front of the class.
I feel like a deer in the headlights,
waiting to be hit with the stares of my peers.
If one little thing goes wrong in my day,
my brain latches onto that memory
and keeps on thinking about it for two weeks…
until it finally goes away.
Only to find that it comes back haunting me 
the next day.
If I get invited to go somewhere
My thoughts go to every situation imaginable.
Just thinking about that
makes me feel so ashamed because I just want
to go somewhere
without having to say “no”


Anxiety is like going through a maze.
Except it never ends.
You keep finding dead ends to what you thought were good beginnings.
No one is around you trying to help because they can’t see you on the inside.  

…You feel truly lost without anyone.

“1 in 5 Canadians experience a mental illness in a given year. As people get older, their mental health often gets worse. But, not many people talk about it because there is still… a mental health stigma which creates stereotypes and offensive comments. This can lead to many dreadful outcomes. We must speak out because…

…there shouldn’t be any shame.”

Written By Olivia

Mental health advocate

Age 13

The Art of The Apology

They are two pretty powerful words – “I’m sorry”. Some find them hard to say, others say them so frivolously that they become meaningless. Many of us were taught to use them as kids, “Say sorry to your brother/sister/friend/aunt/goldfish” etc. etc. Sometimes the lesson went a bit beyond this with wisdom like, “and don’t ever do that again”. Although this latter comment reaches a bit deeper, when it comes to apologies, we usually only teach the tip of the iceberg.

“…the ‘I’m sorry’ part… is just the start of the apology – just the start of making things better and earning true forgiveness.”

When a behaviour or action has resulted in someone being upset, then an apology is generally required. If the action was an accident, for example a child tripping, bumping into and hurting another, then the offending child would say “sorry”. In this case, the hurt child would typically say something like “it’s O.K.” This response acknowledges that it was an accident and there is no need for the child who tripped to feel bad. However, when the action was intentional the response of “it’s O.K.” is not ‘O.K.’ The fact that someone committed an intentional behaviour to make someone else feel bad, is never O.K. In this latter situation, a better response is, “I accept your apology, but please do not do that again”. This emphasizes the need and expectation of changed behaviour from the offending person (i.e. “and don’t ever do that again”). Those words… the “I’m sorry” part… are just the start of the apology – just the start of making things better and earning true forgiveness.

“True forgiveness is earned over time. It happens in the minutes, hours, days, weeks, and months following the incident.”

True forgiveness is earned over time. It happens in the minutes, hours, days, weeks, and months following the incident. It happens as the result of two things – changed behaviour, and kindness. The offending person must change their behaviour by never performing that action again. They must also be extra kind to the offended person. If they do these things then true forgiveness might be achieved. This is what we need children to understand so that they do not grow-up thinking that ‘sorry’ is all that is needed to make things better.

If you say something really horrible about the way I look (it wouldn’t take all that much imagination) and then say sorry, I don’t automatically forget what you said. It isn’t O.K. that you said those things. I may not really care about the fact that you said it, or I might care a lot. This can depend on a variety of factors such as our relationship, my own level of resilience, what lead-up to the incident etc. Either way, it will not be erased from my memory. I will remember that you are someone who said that to me. What follows this incident is not typically complete forgiveness, even if the offended person says, “I forgive you”. However, if you are kind to me from here on, and never repeat that type of offending behaviour, then perhaps eventually we arrive at a point of genuine forgiveness.

Children deserve to be taught this. They need to understand how to accept an apology (according to whether it was an accident or intentional action), how to give an apology, and how to follow it up with kindness and changed behaviour. As adults, we need to both model this and explicitly teach it. Now go forth and apologize.