Oh, It’s Not You… It’s Me… | [Parents] Unlocking the Youth Mental Health Epidemic

Within, the world of youth mental health there is a tremendous push towards changing and improving access to mental health services. To be clear, I believe getting help for kids and their families is of utmost importance. To do this, we need improved services and prevention models that include a radical improvement of k-12 psycho-education.

What I find unhelpful and ignorant, is the constant plea of many youth mental health organizations for increased funding. They point out the problems without explicitly acknowledging their ‘the adults’ role in contributing to them, and how they will help solve them. We as parents MUST do more to own our own SHIT, and to understand how that stink influences our kids.

I don’t for one second want to lay sole blame on a parent or caregiver for the struggles of their kids. It’s clear that problems are complex, and their solutions are multifaceted. Let’s just be damn sure, if we have the audacity to expect the system to change, that we do everything we can to change along those same lines. We don’t seem to get the fact that WE ARE THE SYSTEM. If we can acknowledge our own issues, then maybe our kids or the young people we’re trying to serve might be less resistant to addressing theirs.

I find it encouraging to hear from some physicians and psychiatrists that there needs to be a reconceptualization of how the medical profession provides mental health care.

“The evidence base is telling us that we need a radical shift in our understanding of what is at the heart (and perhaps soul) of mental health practice. If we are to operate in an evidence-based manner, and work collaboratively with all sections of the service-user movement, we need a psychiatry that is intellectually and ethically adequate to deal with the sort of problems that present to it.”1

We need not be physicians or therapists to understand how to look for and identify possible mental health issues in our kids. We can inform ourselves through a little determination and research. From here we might discover how much our own problems impact our kids and what we can do about that.

Parents as ‘A’ Problem and ‘A’ Solution

In this beautiful TED Talk – How to raise successful kids, without over-parenting | by Julie Lythcott-Haims. She does a superb job of digging into the current epidemic of adolescent anxiety and mental health problems. I love how she describes the influence of parent anxiety and obsessiveness with their kids’ success on their fragile sense of self. “We’re afraid they won’t have a future we can brag about to our friends with stickers on the backs of our cars. Self-efficacy is far more critical than the self-esteem we give them when we pat them on the back and say – good job.”

“Self-efficacy is built when one sees that one’s own actions lead to outcomes. Not one’s parents actions on one’s behalf”. Teaching them about chores, self-responsibility, accountability and the willingness to “contribute my effort, to the betterment of the whole” is a reliable predictor of lifelong well-being. The ‘Checklisted Childhood’ has created a problem we’re now spinning our wheels trying to unwind. I strongly suggest you watch her talk if you haven’t already stopped reading this 🙂

Over the last few years, our speakers and I have had the honour of speaking to well over 50 000 young people in the Greater Toronto Area and beyond. Many messages stand out. What is most striking is how little honesty young people hear from the adults in their lives. It’s sad and heartbreaking. The littlest bit of humility and willingness to admit to your own faults and how you know you need to change to be a better caregiver goes a long way.

For too long the mental health movement has pointed the finger at the ‘system’ at the ‘government’ at the ‘economic’ factors influencing our lives. To change the world, we must look in the mirror, and we must accept the personal duty of changing ourselves. When we do, amazing things happen. We must practice what we preach. Young people can smell the bullshit from a mile away. They can sense the dishonesty, insincerity, and deceitfulness of the adults in their lives.



So let’s stand up and take the ‘Starts With Me’ pledge. The world is in your hands. It’s time to live up to the ideals we expect from our kids. Instead of feeding them with you ‘should’, you ‘must’ and you ‘ought’ too, tell them how you fall short, and how you’d like to change, and how hard life is for you sometimes. Show rather than tell.

So stand up, embrace your opportunity to bring about these changes, because the world, and more specifically our kids, need you!

With sincere gratitude,


Want to learn more about our work, please check us out at startswithme.ca


  1. Bracken, P., Thomas, P., Timimi, S., Asen, E., Behr, G., Beuster, C., … & Downer, S. (2012). Psychiatry beyond the current paradigm. The British journal of psychiatry, 201(6), 430-434.
  2. How to raise successful kids — without over-parenting | Julie Lythcott-Haims – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CyElHdaqkjo


    1. Yeah she does such an amazing job of articulating how she sees the situation and what we can do. Thanks for checking out the post and for your comment!

  1. I found the article and TED talk, left me feeling 2 different ways. The TED talk was clear. Do not overpush or pinhole kids. However I felt the article related this type of parenting to the vast issues with mental health in our society. I have 2 sick adult children. A sick mother, aunt, Grandma etc. My daughter was noticibly sick at an earlier than normal age and this was the response I recieved from most of her school help and psychiatrists at the outset. It took an extreme crisis to make the health care sustem where I live, see that she was truly not ok. I am not a perfect parent. However Pushing my agenda was never my style. My kids are awesome but 2 out of 3 are not well. It would have helped significantly to have a system that cared and worked with me towards solutions and help.

    1. Hey,
      Thanks so much for taking the time to write and comment. I see how that connection might be perceived and I think part of me learning to be a better writer and communicator is to improve upon those distinctions. I definitely agree that the system is set up to only serve people in crisis, I’m referring to the Canadian system, although I know it’s similar elsewhere. The main point for me was to express the importance of us parents to acknowledge our own flaws and to communicate with our kids in a manner that owns and honours our inherent imperfections, so that our kids can do the same without the fear of being failures or whatever other crap they’re unconsciously inherited from society at large. We’re all in this together, and I think it is absolutely important to hold the system and caregivers accountable, although there’s only so far we can go in our expectations of what can be provided. It’s a huge dilemma without an easy solution. I do find solace in the serenity prayer, ‘grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference’.

      Thanks again for your honesty and your willingness to share your thoughts and experiences, it is sincerely appreciated.

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