Combating the Growing Mental Health Crisis in Adolescent Boys

Combating the Growing Mental Health Crisis in Adolescent Boys

Part 1 of the 4 part Intro to the MMM program

In 2021 as we continue to learn about the importance of health and wellness, it has allowed for a shift in focus on previously neglected mental health. As we continue to move on from the extreme situation in 2020, we are starting to statistically see the effects this pandemic has had on the mental health of Canadians, with 1 in 5 Canadians screening positively for symptoms of depression, anxiety, or posttraumatic stress disorder (Statistics Canada, 2021). It is an exciting dynamic due to the many factors at play where there isn’t one sole reason behind this increase. Still, the future steps we make need to aid those with mental health disorders or associated mental health outcomes.

The Mental Health Crisis

Like many other facets of our life, the pandemic has exacerbated problems in our society, like wealth inequality and political polarization. A growing issue that has predated the pandemic is the increasing mental health crisis in young people and adolescents. In Canada, 1.2 million children and youth are affected by mental illness, with 20% of the Canadian population by 25 developing a mental illness(YMHSC, 2021). Understanding that this is an issue in both genders is important. Still, there is an increased need to focus on the developing increase of mental health disorders in young men and adolescent boys. In particular, those who have elevated rates of suicide, conduct disorder, substance use, and interpersonal violence relative to their female peers, which are all indicators of poor mental health (Rice et al., 2018). We have also seen that strong determinants of suicide, addiction, and mental health issues are more prominent in men and boys than the opposite sex; these determinants include unemployment, educational drop-out, and loneliness(Affleck et al., 2018). This issue is confirmed by increasing data supporting that young men and boys are a neglected group globally (Rice et al., 2018).

“Children are the world’s most valuable resource and its best hope for the future.” ~ John F. Kennedy

United States Committee for UNICEF, July 25, 1963.

The Effects On Boys

Now, this has dire effects as 70% of mental health issues in adults have been seen to originate in childhood or adolescence(“Mental Illness and Addiction: Facts and Statistics”, 2021). Making earlier intervention a priority to aid or relief mental health problems or burdens could have short-term & long-term beneficial effects. It’s a crisis becoming more prevalent in young individuals, with 34% of Ontario high-school students having moderate to high levels of depression and anxiety symptoms, with 14% had contemplated suicide, and 4% have attempted suicide (“Mental Illness and Addiction: Facts and Statistics”, 2021).

As a concerned individual, you are reading this saying what are we doing and getting the help and treatment they need. Unfortunately, an estimated 75% of children in Canada with mental disorders do not access specialized treatment services (“Mental Illness and Addiction: Facts and Statistics”, 2021).

Techniques to Engage Boys

Young males have been less likely than their female counterparts to seek professional help for mental health difficulties. This observation is due to many issues, including stigma, clashing with the masculine identity, lack of mental health literacy, presentation of professional help, peer acceptance, cultural and environmental influences, and many others (Rice et al., 2018). It’s a diverse issue with many different facets. It shouldn’t devolve into blaming or shaming people but utilizing those deterrence reasons to reveal how to solve the problem, which starts with acknowledging the differences between genders in seeking help for mental health difficulties. Research shows that men have engaged in more action-based interventions focused on shifting behavior or achieving physical outcomes(Rice et al., 2018).  These problems call to action that we need interventions that aren’t branded as mental health interventions or treatment but something relevant and engaging for young men, so they have a strong desire to participate. In theory, this means penetrating male sub-cultures and providing activities focused on building mental strength or improving behavior.

Future Steps

The solution resides in optimizing sports and athletic programs to emphasize their benefits in individual mental wellness. In the other parts of this article, I will tell you what these benefits are, the positive effects they have on individuals, and why optimization of sports programs will be necessary for the future of adolescents and young people in Canada.


Affleck, W., Carmichael, V., & Whitley, R. (2018). Men’s Mental Health: Social Determinants and Implications for Services. The Canadian Journal Of Psychiatry63(9), 581-589.

Mental Illness and Addiction: Facts and Statistics. CAMH. (2021). Retrieved 25 November 2021, from

Rice, S., Purcell, R., & McGorry, P. (2018). Adolescent and Young Adult Male Mental Health: Transforming System Failures Into Proactive Models of Engagement. Journal Of Adolescent Health62(3), S9-S17.

Statistics Canada. (2021). Survey on COVID-19 and Mental Health, September to December 2020. The Dailt. Retrieved 25 November 2021, from

YMHSC. (2021). Youth Mental Health Stats in Canada – Youth Mental Health Canada. Youth Mental Health Canada. Retrieved 25 November 2021, from,have%20developed%20a%20mental%20illness.

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