What U Don’t See
Inside the millennial mind
According to the Canadian Mental Health Association, “mental health means striking a balance in all aspects of your life: social, physical, spiritual, economic and mental.”
It is hard to see a person’s psychological, social, and emotional well-being. And that is what this project is all about: what you don’t see.
Most people have been affected by mental health either personally or through someone they know. Because it is such a widespread issue, this topic can never receive too much attention.
Although, recently, more conversation has been generated about mental health, we still have a long way to go. As few as one in three people struggling with mental health may actually seek help. Suicide has become one of the leading causes of death between the ages of 15-24. And millennials have the highest levels of clinical anxiety, stress, and depression compared to any other generation at the same age.
In this project, we explore the relationship between social media and self-worth, the cost of mental health treatment, and the alarming suicide rates among millennials. We want to examine the issues, talk about some initiatives that could help, and keep the conversation going.
The body image of most millennials’ plays a large role in how they present themselves and, more importantly, how they feel about themselves.
The media and social media heavily influence millennials in today’s world. Often, the media influence is not a healthy one and leads to skewed perceptions.
Money is another factor that impacts millennials’ mental health. The cost of treatment can be high and the wait times for public health services long.
Unfortunately, when pressures become too much, some choose to travel down the path of self-harm, which often leads to suicide and lives cut short.
What do you think when you look in the mirror or picture yourself in your mind? Do you feel confident? Body image is strongly connected to one’s mental health. A negative perception of your body can lead to many mental health issues such as anxiety, depression, anorexia, and Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD). In this section, we are going to look at body image from the perspective of mental health, including eating disorders, cosmetic surgery addictions, and how your relationship with food impacts your relationships with other people.
Eating disorders are often characterized by unusual eating behaviours and distorted views of food. They typically occur during adolescence and young adulthood affecting both men and women, but are more common among women.
Dealing with body image is difficult and openly discussing body image on a public platform can be very challenging. But after reaching out on social media, we were surprised when numerous students agreed to share their stories for our project. Here, we highlight Sydney and Samantha, two young women who bravely open up about their personal struggles with body image.
Low self-esteem, obsession with one’s self image, constant self comparison to other people and extreme dieting could be a red flag of a mental disorder known as Body Dysmorphic Disorder or BDD.
According to the Mayo Clinic website, BDD is a mental disorder where a person becomes obsessed with flaws in their appearance. These are flaws that others don’t see but someone with BDD becomes fixated on them to the point that’s all they see. Experts say BDD is one of the main reasons for cosmetic procedures in early adolescence and teenage years.
In her article for Our Bodies Ourselves Diana Zuckerman, president of the National Centre for Health Research in Washington, says “…in 2015, more than 226,000 cosmetic surgeries were performed on patients between 13 and 19 [years old], including nearly 65,000 surgical procedures such as nose reshaping, breast lifts, breast augmentation, liposuction, and tummy tucks.”
The American Board of Cosmetic Surgery (ABCS) identifies that cosmetic surgery and plastic surgeries are not the same. While both techniques deal with improving a patient’s body, the procedure and the reasons for getting it done are different. Cosmetic surgery is a choice made to improve a patient’s appearance. Plastic surgery is often a necessity, used to reconstruct body defects caused by birth, accidents, burns, or diseases. But, all cosmetic surgery originated with plastic surgery, as outlined in the timeline below.
Although BDD can be easily mistaken for narcissism (a personality disorder where one becomes obsessed with self), there are a few things to look out for to detect BDD. The list below is an abbreviated one from the Mayo Clinic:
That is the enormous sum drained from the Canadian economy annually by mental illness. Enough money to provide a solution to homelessness in Canada, and leave a few billion over. Enough to put a massive dent into the country’s poverty crisis. However, the drain extends far past the nation as a whole, it reaches the bank accounts of those suffering. Treatment for the mentally ill has been referred to as a two-tier system, and those unable to afford the costs of therapy and drugs are left behind. How will Canada’s millennials deal with an institutional crisis that is reflecting on the economy and their health?
Canada is facing a two-headed mental health crisis that remains in the dark. More than half of young adults in Canada report facing depression and other mental health concerns, far exceeding previous generations. Exacerbated by anxiety over their job prospects, and living costs that continue to balloon year by year, the stress is taking its toll on more than the minds of millennials–it’s also impacting their wallets. Money is increasingly becoming the key to successful treatment.
Canadians in the low-income bracket are three or four times likelier than the high-income bracket to report poor to fair mental health. And as reported in the Toronto Star, millennials without the financial means to support their condition encounter what mental health advocate Michael Kirby calls, “a two-tier system of care for children and youth needing mental health services.”
The road to treatment remains a challenge for many. In Ontario, wait times for treatment from a psychiatrist range from two weeks to two years, putting the health of thousands of youth in the balance. Bypassing the public system for swift relief is possible, but only for those who can afford it.
The Ontario Psychological Association in 2013 set the cost of hourly treatment at a recommended $225, which is an expensive sum to shoulder for many families and individuals.
Dr. Sylvain Roy, President of the Ontario Psychological Association, says, “You can be connected to a psychologist almost right away if you can pay or have private insurance. The advantage of being wealthy is that you don’t have to be on a year-long waitlist in hospital for mental health care.”
But more than anything, Dr. Roy says the problem lies with how mental health hospitals lack individual psychotherapy: “There are extremely long waitlists. You will be lucky to have access to group therapy.”
Not to mention the price of the drugs, which many rely on for treatment. Without insurance, drugs like Prozac and Cipralex will cost $80 for a 30-day dose. Over time, that cost accumulates–a healthy life has a price tag attached to it.
Millennials of Canada bear the brunt of this two-tier system. Left with limited resources and options, mental health treatment has become a privilege, rather than a right and it doesn’t get easier when they transition from youth to adulthood. Dr. Roy says, “When these youth become adults they struggle to get the care they need. We must remember that there are mental health services gaps for all Ontarians.”
Partners for Mental Health is an organization that is trying to fill those gaps. It has helped over 400, 000 Canadians with the Not Myself Today campaign. The initiative provides employers the knowledge to support workers through mental health struggles. The recent uptick in conversation surrounding other campaigns, such as Bell Let’s Talk, has been instrumental in Partners for Mental Health and Not Myself Today’s goal of stigmatizing mental illness. PJ VanKoughnett-Olson is a Director at Partners for Mental Health and shares why it’s so important for businesses to take an interest in employee mental health.
Sadly, sometimes the mental anguish felt by millennials becomes too much, and they choose to end their own lives. According to the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA), suicide is the second leading cause of death among Canadians aged 10-24. Looking at marginalized groups, the stats are even more alarming: the rate of suicide among Aboriginals is almost twice the national average, and a study conducted in Manitoba and Northern Ontario found that 28 per cent of transgender and Two-Spirit people had attempted suicide at least once. Many youth struggling with mental illness self-medicate with alcohol and drugs. In this section, we’ll delve into why youth consider suicide and what ultimately makes them ask, “What’s the point?”
The suicide rates in Indigenous communities are astronomically higher than they are among non-Indigenous youth. For example, among Inuit youth, suicide accounts for 40 per cent of deaths (compared to 8 per cent in the rest of Canada). According to one study, suicide rates are closely linked to “cultural continuity,” which it defines as a community’s self-governance, involvement in land claims, and more. Young Indigenous Canadians face unique challenges.
We’d like to introduce you to someone we’re going to call Mary. We’re using that pseudonym in order to protect her identity. Mary grew up in Pikangikum, a remote reserve in northwestern Ontario. In 2012, Macleans Magazine called Pikangikum the “suicide capital of the world” and Mary herself has attempted to take her own life more than once. Click on the letter to your left to get her first-hand account of what it’s like to live on the reserve where addiction and isolation go hand-in-hand, but where there is also astonishing beauty and a rich culture. English is not Mary’s first language, but we have left her letter unedited in order that she can share her story in her own words.
Adjusting to post-secondary school can be tough for any student, but for Indigenous students, the challenges are amplified. Racism, both implicit and explicit, is often an issue, and students have to work hard to overcome these unique challenges. Many schools offer Indigenous students resources to help them succeed, including here at Sheridan College. Our Centre for Indigenous Learning and Support offers a variety of services. We spoke to its Executive Assistant Gillian Kyle about why that’s so important.
The LGBTQ community has a suicide rate much higher than the general population. The stigma, prejudice and perceived isolation that LGBTQ youth face can lead to depression and anxiety so extreme that they consider suicide as their only way out. The overlap with Indigenous youth is also alarming: 28 per cent of transgender and Two-Spirit youth have attempted suicide. Organizations like You Can Play and Egale are working to help LGBTQ youth who are struggling with their identities.
Because of the high rate of suicides within the LGBTQ community, many are suffering with issues in mental health that often go unnoticed.
Individuals live in constant fear of being stigmatized or being physically harmed because of who they are.
Transphobia is defined as being discriminatory and prejudiced against transsexual or transgender individuals. Because of this, it’s common for individuals in the LGBTQ community to stay silent about being openly gay or transgender, leading to a multitude of anxieties and depression.
We spoke to Matt Clark, a student at Sheridan College, who identifies as non-binary. This means Matt’s gender falls outside the confines of “male” and “female.” Matt prefers to use they/them pronouns to better reflect their identity, and they spoke to us about their experiences as a transgender youth who has been diagnosed with mental illness.
There is a clear relationship between mental health and substance abuse in Canadian youth. About one in 25 Ontario students report both elevated psychological distress – that is depression and anxiety – and hazardous drinking.
Around 50 per cent of marijuana users used cannabis to help relieve conditions such as insomnia, depression, and anxiety. There are also prescription drugs dispensed by doctors to help youth cope with their mental illnesses, around 6.5 per cent of youth living in British Columbia, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba were dispensed at least one medication to help with a mood or anxiety disorder.
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is the mental and emotional stress that an individual faces after distressing incidents and coping with it can often lead to substance abuse.
While PTSD is often associated with First and Second World War veterans returning home from the horrors of war, it’s become more common among millennials.
Stéphane Grenier, a 29-year old retired veteran of the Canadian military, was diagnosed with PTSD and depression after his tour in Rwanda.
Grenier shares his story at speaking events and believes that there is more to be done in terms of mental health, not only for veterans. He continues to raise awareness by offering peer support to find ways to combat mental health.
Although most individuals correlate PTSD to accidents of war, a study showed that 36 per cent of millennials exhibited PTSD-like symptoms of behaviour rooted in denial, avoidance, and hyper vigilance.
20-year old Phillip French has been newly diagnosed with PTSD following a tragic car accident in September, and has been unable to attend work for more than seven months.
In the video below, Phillip shares his struggles with everyday activities that most 20-year olds take for granted.
Although thoughts of suicide can seem to be permeating millennial minds, there is hope. Organizations like The Friendship Bench are encouraging discussion about mental health affecting youth.
The Friendship Bench is a not for profit corporation that honours the many selfless acts of Lucas Fiorella, a young man who took his own life due to depression. After his death, his family learned that he would often put effort into making other students who suffer from anxiety or depression feel better just by saying hello. Lucas’s father, Sam Fiorella, is one of the co-founders of the project. He spoke to us about the #YellowIsForHello campaign and why talking about mental health is so important.
Colleges and universities are starting to offer more services to their students and Indigenous communities. Hospitals are improving their mental health facilities for those who need to treatment. Services for youth with mental illnesses are getting better, showing that there is hope for those who are in pain. Below we’ve listed places you can go to for help and some everyday ideas to improve your own mental health.
Kids Help Phone – www.kidshelpphone.ca – 1-800-668-6868
Good2Talk – www.good2talk.ca – 1-866-925-5454
Telehealth – 1-866-797-0000
Mental Health Online – www.mentalhealthhelpline.ca – 1-866-531-2600
CAMH – www.camh.ca (Does not provide crisis counselling over phone)
Main Switchboard phone number – 416-535-8501 Toll free – 1-800-463-2338
Mind Your Mind – mindyourmind.ca
CMHA – www.cmha.ca
Here To Help – www.heretohelp.bc.ca
Inkblot – www.inkblottherapy.com
WELLIN5 – www.wellin5.com
E Mental Health – ementalhealth.ca
ConnexOntario – Drug and Alcohol HelpLine – 1800-565-8603
ConnexOntario – Mental health HelpLine – 1-866-531-2600 www.connexontario.ca
In this project we have shown that millennials are clearly struggling with mental health issues, but there are also people working to help. We hope that we’ve included useful stories and resources in initiatives like the Friendship Bench, Partners for Mental Health, and new treatment therapies like virtual reality. There is help and support for those who need it.
This has been a very personal project for our team. Many of us struggle with mental health or know someone who does. We hope this helps you understand what an important issue this is in today’s society.
Writing and editing have always been a big part of Arina’s life. But, since moving to Canada from Russia, writing has become a part of her daily routine. She is very excited to be working on this amazing project with such a wonderful group of people!
“What we think, we become.”
This project is special to Julia because she has struggled with mental health and wants to use her experiences to bring awareness to mental health. She is very excited and happy to be working with such an amazing group of people on a very important topic.
“You have no idea how high I can fly.”
–Michael Scott, The Office
It’s trying times as a millennial, and dealing with mental health only makes it harder. It doesn’t have to be a silent struggle, or a problem divided by money and status. As millennials, we are often denigrated as weak and fragile. Let’s overcome this, first starting with mental health.
“I spent two years in college and all I got was a pretty good education.”
Kennedy is happy to be a part of this project because it highlights such an important issue for people growing up in this generation.
“Forget the mistakes, remember the lesson.”
This project is meaningful to Kasia because when she was 16 she was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. She sees a lot of misconceptions about mental health in her everyday life.
“While it is always best to believe in one’s self, a little help from others can be a great blessing.”
– General Iroh, Avatar the Last Airbender
This project is important because it has the potential to both educate and provide a sense of community in a really unique way. I think that stories have the ability to create empathy and change. If we can translate numbers into stories that move people, then that is a huge accomplishment!
“Courage, dear heart.”
-C.S Lewis, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader (Christy writes this on her arm every day)
This project is special to Grant because in 2015 he lost a friend as a direct result of a mental health issue. It made him realize that anyone can be struggling and you may never know until that person is gone.
“If you’re through hell, keep going.”
– Winston Churchill
I’ve struggled with mental health before, so I think this project is important to bring light to how many people are actually affected by mental illness.
“Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars.”
Follow on Twitter: @
This project is important to Isabella because she feels mental health has touched everyone at some point in their life. She’s hoping she can have a part in creating awareness and effecting change.
“Being happy doesn’t mean everything is perfect. It means you have decided to look beyond the imperfections.”
This project is important to Hailey because she wants her friends, family, and peers to feel safe and supported while speaking out about their mental health. She hopes that anyone struggling in silence might stumble upon our site and find it helpful in some way.
“The sun will come out tomorrow.”
–Martin Charnin, Annie
One of the quotes that helps Natalia when she feels powerless is “life is not happening to you, it is responding to you”, meaning she does have the power to change things when they’re not going that well.
Adith is passionate about experiencing different cultures, travelling, photography and videography. Moving to Canada when he was 17 taught him about living life independently.
“Take your discouragements as encouragements.”
– Adith Natarajan
There are so many misconceptions about mental illness and I think it’s important to challenge them to ensure we have an inclusive society. I hope this project shares important facts, but also acts as a positive space.
“No matter what anybody tells you, words and ideas can change the world.”
–Dead Poet’s Society
This project is special to Paige because she believes mental health is important and relatable to everyone in some way.
“Difficult roads often lead to beautiful destinations.”
This project is special to Samereh because she believes way too many people struggle with mental health. She thinks the more we know about mental health the more help people can get.
“When you go through deep waters, I will be with you.”
This project is special to Chelsea because as someone who has struggled with anxiety, I think it’s important to raise awareness about mental health.
“You never know what somebody’s going through, or who that somebody is.”
This project is important to Christina because she has struggled with mental health for years. She believes this is a great way to educate people about the importance of mental health.
Follow on Twitter: @
This project is special to Olivia because she has struggled with mental health issues since she was a child. She thinks it is important to get the facts and stories out about what people don’t see when it comes to millennials.
“Try and fail, but never fail to try.”
This project is important to Sam because she feels like mental health is something everyone struggles with and everyone experiences at one point in their life.
“Heal my heart and make it clean, open up my eyes to the things unseen, show me how to love like you have loved me.”
This project is important to Amelia because she is an advocate for body positivity and healthy lifestyles.
“You can always find a glimpse of happiness in the most unexpected places.”
We'd really love to hear from you so why not drop us an email and we'll get back to you as soon as we can.