TORONTO, October 3, 2012 - More than half of Canadian parents (53 per cent) have never discussed their children's mental health with anyone, according to the 2012 RBC Children's Mental Health Parents Poll. Most of these parents (65 per cent) assume their child would come to them if they had a problem - but they may not be correct.
Children are more likely to confide in friends (50 per cent) about their mental health concerns rather than their mother (30 per cent), a health professional (22 per cent) or father (10 per cent), according to a companion online poll of 115 youth who visited the Kids Help Phone website, Canada's leading online and phone counselling service for youth. Among the 45 per cent of parents who have talked about their children's mental health with someone, only half (49 per cent) have talked about it with their child.
"Many parents and children don't discuss mental health concerns, such as how a child is feeling or behaving. In my daily practice, I've seen how lack of communication leads to missed warning signs," said Dr. Ian Manion, psychologist, executive director of the Ontario Centre of Excellence for Child and Youth Mental Health and an advisor to the RBC Children's Mental Project. "Kids who suffer in silence can obsess over simple issues that can quickly become unmanageable. Parents who have regular conversations with their children about feelings and behaviour are more likely to identify potential concerns early and help their child more effectively."
When parents were asked to whom they expect their child would speak about a mental health concern, 63 per cent indicated it would be themselves, 34 per cent said the other parent, followed by friends (23 per cent), a teacher (19 per cent), or a grandparent (18 per cent). Parents who have talked about their children's mental health issue are more likely to have confided in a spouse or partner (74 per cent), a doctor (64 per cent) or teacher (56 per cent).
"It can be challenging to discuss mental illness, but being open and honest is important to ensure children get the support they need to live healthy lives," said Jamie Anderson, deputy chair of RBC Capital Markets and executive champion of the RBC Children's Mental Health Project. "Many parents don't feel equipped to have those conversations with their children. That's why the RBC Children's Mental Health Project funds so many organizations that provide information and resources to help parents and families."
Other findings from the 2012 RBC Children's Mental Health Parents Poll
The gender gap: mothers and fathers take a different approach
There were significant differences in how mothers and fathers would handle certain problem behaviours. While both genders said they would monitor aggressive behaviour first before seeking help, men are more likely to try and manage on their own.
While the majority of fathers would feel worried if their child showed signs of a potential mental illness, they are less inclined to feel this way than women (55 per cent compared to 65 per cent). On the other hand, women are more likely to seek out information on children's mental health than men (60 per cent compared to 50 per cent).
Parents lack credible information on mental health, many rely on internet
The RBC poll showed that access to accurate information on children's mental health is a big issue for parents. The majority (53 per cent) of parents who have looked for information on children's mental health or illness say that finding information they can trust is a nightmare. Over half (58 per cent) feel overwhelmed by the volume of information available. Most parents opt for an online search as their first source of information (35 per cent) followed by the family doctor (22 per cent) and school personnel including counsellors or teaching staff (12 per cent).
Stigma around mental health is still a problem for parents
The RBC poll found that one significant barrier to early intervention, diagnosis and treatment of a child's mental health issue may be perceived stigma. An overwhelming majority of parents agree that children with a mental health condition are stigmatized among their peers (84 per cent) or among adults (76 per cent). Over one-quarter of parents (27 per cent) admit they would feel embarrassed if people found out their child had a mental health condition.
"Stigma is a significant barrier that we can all overcome, whether you have a diagnosed child or not," added Anderson. "Many parents have a natural tendency to protect their children from the judgment of others, but this can prevent early treatment and intervention that's necessary to help in the long run."
About the RBC Children's Mental Health Parents Poll
The RBC Children's Mental Health Parents Poll was completed online from July 19 to August 3, 2012 using Leger Marketing's online panel, LegerWeb, with a sample of 2,568 Canadian parents with at least one child under the age of 18. A probability sample of the same size would yield a margin of error of ±1.93 per cent, 19 times out of 20.
Kids Help Phone commissioned a companion poll to the 2012 RBC Children's Mental Health Parents Poll asking 115 youth visiting the Kids Help Phone website, who they have or would speak to about their mental health concerns. Since 1989, Kids Help Phone has been Canada's leading online and phone counselling service for young people age five to 20. It's free, anonymous, confidential and available 365 days a year in English and in French.
About the RBC Children's Mental Health Project
The RBC Children's Mental Heath Project is a multi-year philanthropic commitment to programs that reduce stigma, provide early intervention and increase public awareness about children's mental health issues. The RBC Children's Mental Health Project is our cornerstone 'health and wellness' donations program, and since 2008, we have donated over $12 million to more than 200 community-based and hospital programs across Canada. For more information, visit rbc.com/childrensmentalhealth.
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For more information, please contact:
Matt Gierasimczuk, RBC Corporate Communications, 416-974-2124, firstname.lastname@example.org