When Assia Messaoudi turned 12 years old, something changed.
It was hard for her to get out of bed and she always felt sad.
“I started realizing I felt different from everyone else my age. I didn’t want to go to school,” Messaoudi said.
“It just felt like a dark hole. Everything seemed like a struggle. Leaving the house, getting ready in the morning … It was just not a place for any 12-year-old to be.”
Messaoudi said it all came to a head when she missed more than two weeks of school in a row.
“My mom told me ‘You’ve been in bed for two weeks. You need to go to school,’” Messaoudi recalled.
“She was picking up my clothing for me and I just sat there. I was sitting in my bed and I was just crying.”
Messaoudi is now 22 years old and she said 10 years ago, there wasn’t the same awareness around mental health as there is now.
“I didn’t know what was wrong with me,” she said.
It wasn’t until two years later that Messauodi was diagnosed with depression and anxiety, but even then, she said she didn’t receive the treatment she needed.
“I saw a doctor once but I didn’t get any follow up and I was put on a wait list for two years,” Messauodi said.
A survey released Tuesday by Children’s Mental Health Ontario in partnership with Ipsos polled Ontarians between the ages of 18 and 34.
According to the survey, 62 per cent of respondents said they have had concerns about their level of anxiety and 46 per cent said they missed school due to issues related to anxiety.
The survey also polled parents with children 25 years and younger and results showed 50 per cent of parents said they had concerns about their child’s level of anxiety and 51 per cent said they had difficulty getting help for their child in relation to anxiety.
Kim Moran, CEO of Children’s Mental Health Ontario said parents and guardians should be in tune with their children’s moods.
“You can tell if a child is struggling as a parent and almost go with your gut. If they are missing a lot of school and they are withdrawing from their friends and family, those are really good indicators that there is something really significantly wrong,” Moran said.
Moran added there is a “crisis situation” because children with mental health issues are looking for help, with limited success.
“Sometimes there are 18-month to two-year wait lists for publicly funded mental health therapy,” she said.
“The solutions are simple. The evidence and research shows psychotherapy and cognitive behavioral therapy administered to kids by social workers or psychologists are the things that kids need when they are struggling with a mental health issue and the solution is we need more of them.”
Messauodi said she wants people to recognize that even children struggle with mental health issues.
“There is this stigma that kids are kids and kids don’t have anything to be depressed about, but realistically … this is not just something that comes out of teen angst,” she said.
“It’s a bigger issue and people so often associate it with a child being just a child.”