The High Risk of Mental Health in the Youth Population: What Role can Employers Play?
By Chelsea Cottier, Aspen/Boys & Girls Clubs of Calgary
Did you know that youth mental health is the second highest medical care expenditure in Canada, surpassed only by injuries? (Canadian Mental Health Association). In fact youth ages 15-24 years old are the most likely age group to experience mental health illnesses (Centre for Addiction and Mental Health).
These are shocking statistics but they only represent part of the picture as most youth do not seek care for their mental health concerns and are therefore not accounted for in this statistic. Currently, 10-20% of youth identify having a mental health concern but only 1 in 5 of those individuals have received support from a professional or community agency for that concern. (Canadian Mental Health Association). That means that many youth may be facing their mental health concerns alone and do not feel comfortable opening up to others. In fact, stigma about having a mental health concern is common and that only grows in the employment sector where personal performance is key to maintaining employment. Youth often feel that admitting to facing a mental health concern can be perceived as a weakness that may cost them their position.
Additionally youth face a larger unemployment rate than any other age group with unemployment rates usually being double that of adult rates. In September 2019, Alberta youth ages 15-24 years old had an unemployment rate of 15.5% as compared to 5.2% for adults (Statistics Canada). This means that they may face more pressure to maintain a position or get a job and therefore may be less likely to disclose and share their concerns for fear of being judged less capable.
With all of this being said I think it is important to consider that a youth employee who does not show up for an interview, shows up 5 minutes late to a morning shift or demonstrates high anxiety while learning a new task may be facing a mental health concern that they are not receiving support for.
So what can you do as an employer to increase retention of youth and support individuals managing mental health concerns?
Implementing a peer mentor program to help youth ease into their position can often help provide a supportive, personalized place for learning and success in their role.
Something as simple as posting about mental health resources in the break room can send a loud message that you as an employer know that mental health will exist for your employees and can be discussed at this workplace.
Create an opportunity for managers and employees to learn about mental health. A management team who has a general knowledge of the facts of youth mental health may increase empathy and understanding of the concerns occurring at a larger scale for youth and allow a workplace to be more inclusive and supportive.
Review company policy and procedures. Ensure policies and procedures promote positive mental health.
Get to know the resources that are available in your community. Employers who can refer a youth to receive proper support may see improvement and be comfortable keeping an employee in that position rather than having to let them go. With proper support most mental health concerns are manageable and an employee’s performance can begin to improve. For example, 80% of people who receive help for their depression are able to get back to normal activities (CMHA).
Sources & More Information:
Canadian Mental Health Association. (n.d.). Fast Facts of Mental Illness. https://cmha.ca/fast-facts-about-mental-illness#:~:text=Surpassed%20only%20by%20injuries%2C%20mental%20disorders%20in%20youth,children%20who%20need%20mental%20health%20services%20receives%20them.
Center for Addiction and Mental Health (n.d). Mental Illness and Addiction: Facts and Statistics. https://cmha.ca/fast-facts-about-mental-illness, https://www.camh.ca/en/driving-change/the-crisis-is-real/mental-health-statistics#:~:text=In%20any%20given%20week%2C%20at,mental%20and%2For%20behavioural%20disorders&text=approximately%20175%2C000%20full%2Dtime%20workers,work%20due%20to%20mental%20illness.
Statistics Canada. (2019, September). Alberta Labour Force Statistics September, 2019. https://open.alberta.ca/dataset/b754ca87-2e9b-4a80-b7b2-2cfef8e53ff4/resource/b40d6bb1-238b-4981-a29f-23e563796588/download/lbr-public-package-2019-09.pdf#:~:text=6%25%207.2%25%207.0%25%20Unemployment%20Rate%2C%20Alberta%20Cities%20Seasonally,Alberta%20Seasonally%20Adjusted%20Age%20All%20Ages%2815%2B%29%60%20Youth%2815-24%29%60%20Adults%2825%2B%29%60