How to Help Youth With Their Mental Health


Did you know that only 20% of children that need help with mental health actually receive that support? This is an alarming statistic, particularly for those of us with young people in our lives that we want to see succeed. With many mental health problems starting in childhood and adolescence, strong emotional and social development in early years is crucial to laying a good foundation for mental health as an adult.

The good news is, every adult has the ability to support kids with building mental wellness and resilience that can follow them into adulthood.

Kids are already talking about mental health, and as adults, we need to know how to engage in these conversations in ways that help children and youth with their mental health concerns. It’s all about learning—and putting into action—the right skills. But knowing what to say when we recognize behaviours like anxiety, sadness, or self-harm among the young people in our lives isn’t always obvious.

That’s why United Way of Calgary and Area and J5 partnered with several local organizations to create the Natural Supports Simulation—a free online tool that helps adults build skills to support children and youth with mental wellness.

Designed to help anyone who is a natural support (a parent, caregiver, relative, teacher, coach, mentor, or friend of the individual in need), the free 20-minute tutorial helps adults navigate a variety of conversations around mental health, with the intent of providing support to the kid in need. Users learn how to actively listen, validate emotions, remove stigma around mental health, and engage in conversations non-judgmentally with the goal of building confidence and competencies in children and youth. After completing the simulation, the user receives information on how to build supportive skills as well as a list of resources available for support.

The simulation was developed in consultation with subject matter experts from Alberta Health Services, Calgary Counselling Centre, CARYA, Catholic Family Services, Government of Alberta: Children’s Services, McMann, The Distress Centre, and The Alex.

The Natural Supports Simulation is desktop and mobile-friendly and can be accessed at at no cost.

You are not alone. There is help.

If you cannot find someone you trust who is willing to support you, dial a crisis line right away at 403-266-HELP (4357) All crisis lines are confidential.