For the first time, just over 50% of female students in Ontario show signs of moderate to serious psychological distress, according to the latest Ontario Student Drug Use and Health Survey (OSDUHS), released by the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH). Psychological distress – which refers to symptoms of anxiety or depression – has been rising steadily among all Ontario students in Grades 7 to 12 since it was first monitored in 2013. However, girls seem to fare worse on this and other mental health measures.
One in four students visited a professional for a mental health issue over the past year, a figure that has remained stable from past surveys. Five percent of secondary school students were prescribed a medication for anxiety, depression, or both, and about three per cent of all students sought help by calling a telephone counselling helpline or over the internet. Still, nearly one-third said they wanted to talk to someone about their mental health, but did not know where to turn. Almost four in 10 said that they rarely or never talk to their parents about their problems or feelings.
Technology and social media use have also increased. In total, 20 per cent of students spend five or more hours on social media a day, compared to 11% in 2013. And nearly one-third (30%) spent five or more hours a day, in their free time, on electronic devices such as smartphones, laptops, computers and gaming consoles. Five per cent of secondary school students reported symptoms suggesting they had a serious problem with use of technology. For the first time, the survey included questions on these symptoms, which included a preoccupation with technology, a loss of control, withdrawal symptoms, and problems with family and friends.