Youth buried by anxiety

Chantelle Deacon

"Every single day I would walk through the doors and I'd get that pit in your stomach," said Samantha Sewell, Vernon Secondary School graduate and Miss International Volunteer.  "I felt worthless and I felt hopeless."

It's back to school for students of all ages, but for many when they walk back through those doors they are filled with anxiety, stress and depression.

For some, it's the thought of having to buckle down in the classroom and study and for others, it's because they are scared of some of the people who surround them in the school.

"I think what sometimes goes unnoticed is the kid who seems to be functioning just fine, the A or B student that doesn't seem to have any trouble," said Dave Mackenzie, student councillor, Clarence Fulton Secondary. "Sometimes those are the kids that were throwing up before they came to school in the morning but then they put on their brave face."

There is still a stigma associated with mental illness, says Mackenzie, many students are afraid to admit they need some help.

"There is still shame associated with acknowledging that when we're struggling with our mental health and it's that shame that stops us from getting help and asking for help because there is still that mentality that we just need to try harder."

Mackenzie helps youth handle their mental health daily, but he still believes many students are afraid to speak up and ask for help.

"That's related to our societal stigma," he said. "I think schools are probably ahead of society in general, in terms of the conversations but schools like society we have a long way to go to reduce that stigma so that it's an okay 'thing' to talk about."

Sewell, a victim of bullying throughout elementary, high school and still to this day knows what it feels like to be afraid to walk into a school.

"Voices would follow me down the hall, 'there is the girl that's weird, there is the girl that can't talk,'" she said. "I felt happiest being asleep because I didn't have to worry about it and the second the alarm clock went off in the morning it was an instant rush of, 'Oh no, I don't want to go.'"

"It was constant, I faced extreme anxiety, I didn't want to go to class," she said.

The young woman is now a global ambassador for Live Out Loud Charity, which focuses on core character development, anti-bullying, and suicide prevention.

She uses her platform as a way to help others who faced similar situations to hers.

It's extremely important that parents have a  conversation with their child about how they are feeling heading back into the classroom and get them the support they need.

Every school has a councillor available for all students.

The Kids Help Phone is also a resource for students. Sewell used this help line and she says it helped save her life.

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