Reach out 

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As summer heads into fall, it always feels like the start of a new year.

Perhaps this is due to lifelong tie to the start of school in September, and perhaps a tiny bit of it is linked to looking forward to another ski season approaching.

Funnily enough, I always find myself feeling stressed at this time of year, even anxious—September feels like the Monday of the year. I have an overwhelming feeling that I need to have all my ducks in order. It's sort of an instinctual reaction to the approach of winter, I tell myself, as I wrap the whole family up in this frenzy of getting ready for school, getting ready for winter and getting ready for ... well, whatever is coming next.

There's a buzz around the home that everyone gets wrapped up in.

Part of this renewal is fun, but part of it exhausting and can take a toll. These days I find I am reminding myself to manage my stress and not pass it on to those around me, especially my kids (one heading into fourth-year university, the other heading off for first year).

It's advice I freely share, though I understand it is easier said than done. Perhaps keeping in mind the alarming rates of teenage mental illness will help caregivers manage their own expectations.

The 2018 B.C. Adolescent Health Survey, conducted by the McCreary Centre Society, included responses from more than 38,000 Grades 7 to 12 students at 840 schools across the province.

Most students (79 per cent) reported having a "good" quality of life and said that life was going well (73 per cent). However, while 73 per cent of students said their mental health was good or excellent, 15 per cent reported having a mental-health condition in 2018, and reports of those conditions are on the rise.

The survey found that more students said they suffered from anxiety disorder and panic attacks (19 per cent, up from eight per cent in the previous 2013 survey) and depression (15 per cent, up from 10 per cent), and girls were almost three times more likely than boys to report one of these conditions.

There are myriad reasons for these findings, including that teens themselves are becoming more aware of the language of anxiety and stress—and there is the rise of social media as well.

"Anecdotally, we knew the mental health [data] was not going to be great, so we weren't surprised by any of those results," said Annie Smith, executive director at the McCreary Centre Society.

In 2018, 15 per cent of students reported missing classes because of mental-health challenges and 14 per cent said they were too anxious or depressed to participate in extracurricular activities.

There is also a new kid on the block when it comes to stress and anxiety felt by youth—the climate crisis.

Here in Whistler, we have seen teens protest in the village over the climate crisis, they have travelled to Vancouver to be part of global marches, they ask questions about it and debate it at the dinner table—it's worrying them (as well as us).

And many feel powerless in the face of its enormity—and that leads to anxiety.

Observing visual cues of this change to our climate, such as the smoke we endured in the last few summers, can add to this feeling of worry. Indeed, government bodies and experts are using phrases for this emotion nowadays, including environmental grief, eco grief and even climate anxiety.

"Anytime you have any kind of change, it can lead to grief," Christine Korol, a psychologist at the Vancouver Anxiety Centre and professor at the University of British Columbia, told the Toronto Star last month.

"Trying to accept a new reality with the changing climate could lead people to feel sad in ways they hadn't felt before.

"What we are seeing is scary, and what we imagine might be coming is even scarier."

The environment is also now a top-ranking concern for Canadian voters ahead of the federal election this fall.

What we all know about stress and anxiety is that we need to find coping mechanisms to help. For some that means taking action, for others it is reaching out for help or simply talking to a friend.

Staying silent is not an option if you are feeling overwhelmed.

We are very fortunate in Whistler to have some amazing community supports through Whistler Community Services Society. And, as of this week, you can even book an online consultation.

Also coming up on Sept. 12, our local mental-health champions Kerry and Ginny Dennehy are having their annual fundraiser, "We're Back for Mental Health." (On March 2, 2001, the Dennehys' 17-year-old son Kelty took his own life while suffering from depression. The Kelty Patrick Dennehy Foundation was founded that same year.)

The foundation has raised millions for mental health support and remains a go-to support for Whistler. Get your tickets here: thekeltyfoundation.org/were-back.

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