Having access to reliable information on positive mental health and mental illness is crucial for high school students for a number of reasons. Mental and emotional problems are common among high school students and need to be addressed, just like students’ physical health problems.

Even if students have not experienced mental illness, it is very likely that they know someone who has. Consider the following statistics to get an idea of just how widespread the effects of mental illness are in society, and among young people in particular:

1) Mental illness is second only to heart disease as the leading cause of disability in Canada and worldwide. (Global Burden of Disease – World Health Organization, World Bank, Harvard University, 1990)

2) Mental health problems affect one in every five young people at any given time.

3) The first symptoms of severe, chronic forms of mental illness (such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, depression and anxiety disorders) generally appear between the ages of 15 and 24. (CMHA, 2003)

4) An estimated two-thirds of all young people with mental health problems are not receiving the help they need.

5) Suicide is the third leading cause of death among young people aged 15-24. At least 90% of those who commit suicide have a diagnosable mental illness. Learning about mental illness and the im portance of seeking treatment can save lives.

6) Fear of stigma and the resulting discrimination discourages individuals and their families from getting the help they need. (SAMHSA, 2004)

The modules in this guide present fundamental information about mental health and mental illness. Students can apply the knowledge they gain from this guide as they encounter new situations and make decisions about their lives.