Tips for staying well
Getting enough sleep, eating well, and minimizing screen time, are good practices for our mental health. Below are some additional tips to help promote good mental health practices:
- Spend time doing something you enjoy. This activity can be on your own or with a group of people. It’s a moment for you to engage with healthy hobbies that make you happy.
- Take breaks. Take time out for yourself. Being busy can be good but being stressed all the time is not. Give yourself permission to rest and relax. Doing “nothing” is actually doing something. It’s helping you build your strength for the next challenge.
- Help others. When you take time to be kind to others, or get involved in something bigger than yourself, it can give your own mental health a boost. Small things that don’t take a lot of your own energy can sometimes make a huge difference to someone else. Say “hi” to someone new in the halls, invite someone to sit with you at lunch, hold the door open for someone, and see if it gives you a lift too.
- Notice the good things. It’s easy to get caught up in the negatives that happen in life. Instead, look for the positives each day, even in situations that might seem bad. Be grateful for the small things.
- Get sleep. We know school starts early and you may like staying up late, so you might not get enough sleep all the time. But aim to get 8 or more hours of sleep most nights. Here are some tips on how to improve your sleep.
- Try to increase your water intake – carry a water bottle with you so you can stay hydrated through the day. Consider decreasing or discontinuing your caffeine intake – caffeine has been shown to create a stress reaction in your body and might cause you to feel nervous, irritable or restless.
- Fuel yourself well. As a student, you are under a lot of stress at times, be mindful of the types of foods you eat. Sometimes it helps to have a healthy snack nearby so you can refuel easily and avoid getting “hangry”.
- Try to limit screen time. Research has linked social media use with mental health issues – you’ve probably heard this before. Using social media can cause us to compare ourselves… we do this without noticing, so it can be hard to stop. Many smartphones let you set timers on apps to help you limit how much you use them. Here’s some more info about how social media impacts our wellness.
- Prioritize your healthy relationships. Find people in your life who help you to feel good. Notice how you feel after spending time with someone. Sometimes it’s helpful to create boundaries for ourselves and limit contact with people who bring us down or encourage unhealthy behaviour.
- Move! Physical activity is good for our mental health. It can be as simple as taking a walk. Even better, join an activity at school – it’s a great way to meet people who you can be active with.
- Try some mindfulness activities. Your teachers may have taught you some deep breathing exercises, or maybe you’ve joined a yoga class. What about meditation? Here’s some information on mindfulness for teens.
- Get curious. Learn more about your mental and physical health. It’s a fascinating area of study (yes, we’re biased…). Recognize this is your life, and you can learn to improve your experience.
Signs to watch out for
Moments when you are not feeling your best are normal. Our feelings and emotions change all the time, it’s expected (you’re human). At times these changes can affect what we think about ourselves or how we act towards other people. However, it is important to identify when you are having more than just a bad day. Below is a list of questions you can reflect on to determine whether you are just experiencing a challenging moment that a healthy coping strategy can support or if you could use further support from a mental health professional.
Questions to reflect on:
- Is how I’m thinking, feeling, or acting different for me? A change from how I used to be?
- Are my thoughts, emotions or actions affecting my everyday life negatively?
- Have I been feeling this way for some time, like more than a couple of weeks?
- Am I dealing with my problems in unhealthy ways?
- Am I carrying too much by myself?
If you answer yes to some of these questions, it’s probably time to connect with a supportive and caring person who can help. Reaching out can prevent problems from getting worse.
Still not sure?
You can always speak to a caring and supportive adult ally such as: a teacher, a parent/caregiver, relative, principal, coach, faith leader, Elder, or your family doctor. Kids Help Phone is an additional resource you can use to speak with a trained counselor to see if getting more help is a good idea. Counsellors are available 24/7. The phone number for Kids Help Phone is 1-800-668-6868 or you can text CONNECT to 686868.
Thoughts of suicide
Ask for help if you are having thoughts of suicide or harming yourself. There is always hope, and there are people ready and wanting to help. Tell a caring adult that you need help. If you need immediate assistance, here are some options:
- Speak with a trained counsellor anytime (24/7) by calling Kids Help Phone at 1-800-668-6868 or texting CONNECT to 686868.
- First Nations and Inuit Hope for Wellness Help Line 1-855-242-3310.
- Black Youth Helpline 416-285-9944 or toll-free 1-833-294-8650.
- Call 9-1-1 to request an ambulance (request a mental health professional be sent who understands my culture)
You are not alone.
How to ask for help
Asking for help seems like a big step, but it isn’t as hard as it seems. Once you have decided to ask, and have an idea of who you will approach, it is a matter of finding a few words to start off with. The rest usually falls into place because you are then sharing the burden with a caring adult.
Here are some conversation starters:
“I haven’t been feeling well lately and I think I need some help.”
“Things haven’t been going well for me. I need some help to turn things around.”
“I can’t seem to get past the feelings I’m having. I wanted to reach out before things got worse.”
“I don’t know if you can help me, but I’m hoping you can help me to find someone who can. I’m worried that I have a problem with my mental health.”
“I’m not good at asking for help, and I wish I didn’t have to, but I don’t think I can handle this alone. Can you help me?”
If you need immediate help speak with a counsellor 24/7 by calling Kids Help Phone at 1-800-668-6868 or texting CONNECT to 686868
If you are in need of support, but not in crisis:
- Talk to your parent(s)/caregivers and ask to make an appointment with your family doctor.
- Talk to your teacher, guidance counsellor or another adult you trust at school.
- Speak with a counsellor 24/7 by calling Kids Help Phone at 1-800-668-6868 or texting CONNECT to 686868.
- Use Kids Help Phone Resources Around Me, a database that allows you to search for resources in your community like counselling and mental health support, sexual health support, housing support, legal support, and more.
- Visit a Children’s Mental Health Ontario Centre
- Children’s Mental Health Ontario agencies are open and providing support to children and youth. No physician referral is required and no OHIP card is necessary to access services. Find a Children’s Mental Health Centre in your community.
- Call the Transgender crisis line (1-877-330-6366)
- a crisis hotline for transgender people staffed by transgender people
- Call the Black Youth Helpline (416-285-9944 or toll-free 1-833-294-8650)
- A helpline that serves all youth with a specific focus on Black youth, families and schools.
Mental health supports for Indigenous students
- Hope for Wellness Help Line provides immediate mental health counselling and crisis intervention to all indigenous peoples in English, French, Cree, Ojibway or Inuktitut upon request. 1-855-242-3310
- The Métis Nation of Ontario (MNO) offers a 24-hour Mental Health and Addictions Crisis Line with culturally specific mental health and addiction supports for adults, youth, and families in Ontario in both English and French, please call: 1-877-767-7572
- Native Child and Family Services of Toronto
- Ontario Federation of Indigenous Friendship Centres
- Talk 4 Healing Helpline providing support, help and resources for Indigenous women in Ontario.
- Anishnawbe Toronto provides mental health counseling and traditional counseling that provides support which considers the spiritual, mental, emotional, and physical needs of every individual.
- CAMH Aboriginal Service – The Aboriginal Service provides outpatient groups and individual counselling to Aboriginal people experiencing substance use and other mental health challenges.
- Brighter Days: An Indigenous Wellness Program Brighter Days: An Indigenous Wellness Program by Kids Help Phone was developed by Indigenous experts to empower First Nations, Inuit and Métis youth with skills, tools and resources to support their well-being.
- Indian Residential Schools Resolution Health Support Program
- The IRSRHSP has a National Indian Residential Schools Crisis Line (1-866-925-4419 that provides immediate emotional support for former Indian Residential School students. Available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
- CAMH has also created this comprehensive list of supports.
Resources to help you support your mental health