Stress, Anxiety, and Depression are on the Rise for Young Canadians

The number of young Canadians suffering from stress, anxiety, and depression is on the rise. “In one survey, about 14% of Canadian youth felt stressed on most days” (CMHA, 2014, para. 13). In addition, the Canadian Mental Health Association estimates that the total number of youth, ages 12 to 19, at risk of depression is 3.2 million (CMHA, 2023, para. 1).

What are kids stressed most about?

Children worry most about situations that require them to change or adapt. According to Medline Plus (2023), some of the top stressors for kids include:

  • Negative thoughts about themselves
  • Stress about grades or schoolwork
  • Problems with friends, bullying, and peer pressure
  • Financial issues in the family
  • Moving, switching schools, homelessness
  • Changes in the family unit, including separation, divorce, death, or illness

How can parents help?

As a parent, you can help your child by keeping them apprised of any significant upcoming changes, maintaining dependable routines and schedules, and helping them to become more resilient by increasing their feelings of self-worth. One way to build their feelings of self-worth is to get them involved in activities where they can experience success (Medline Plus, 2023).

Which activities can help reduce stress, anxiety, and depression?

Get your child involved in physical and creative activities.

First, exercise. Exercise gets blood flowing to your brain and “has been found as effective as meds for mild depression” (Ivey et al., 2018, p. 289). This is crucial, especially considering that mood and anxiety medication use in children and youth ages 5 to 24 has steadily risen over the past five years (CIHI, 2022).

Next, for a creative activity, try painting! Painting has been shown to significantly reduce children’s anxiety and improve depression (Motlagh et al., 2023). Creative endeavours, such as painting, increase the body’s dopamine production; dopamine is a chemical released in the brain that makes you feel good (Health Direct, 2021).

In addition, painting can help your child to stop overthinking. Selecting the colours and planning where to place them keeps you focused on the present instead of worrying about what happened yesterday or what could go wrong tomorrow (Rayner, 2015). This means you will be more focused on the here and now, which helps you to feel more calm. (Here is a fun and stress-free painting project you could try!)

In conclusion, if your child is one of the many Canadian youth feeling stressed, help them get physically active and engaged in creative activities. If signs of stress do not decrease, or if your child is becoming withdrawn or depressed, contact your healthcare provider for assistance. While stress, anxiety, and depression are on the rise for young Canadians, there is help and hope!

by Denise Marek

June 4, 2023


Canadian Mental Health Association. (2014). Stress. CMHA.

Canadian Mental Health Association. (2023). Youth course: Living life to the full for youth (13-18). CMHA.

CIHI. (2023). Children and youth mental health in Canada.

Health Direct. (2021). Dopamine.

Ivey, A. E., Ivey, M. B., & Zalaquett, C. P. (2018). Intentional interviewing and counselling: Facilitating client development in a multicultural society (9th ed.). Cengage Learning.

MedlinePlus. (2023). Stress in childhood. National Library of Medicine.

Motlagh, E. G., Bakhshi, M., Davoudi, N., Ghasemi, A., & Moonaghi, H. K. (2023). The physical and psychologica outcomes of art therapy in pediatric palliative care: A systematic review. Journal of research in medical sciences : the official journal of Isfahan University of Medical Sciences28, 13.

Raynor, S. (2015, August 3). Why colouring books are red hot in self-help right now. Psychology Today.

Zaidel D. W. (2014). Creativity, brain, and art: biological and neurological considerations. Frontiers in human neuroscience8, 389.