Themes common in youth

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Dropping out of school

"Dropping out" is the phenomenon of young people leaving high school before graduating. In Quebec, the dropout rate is 22.5%, one of the highest in Canada. Although much rarer, there are some areas of the country where youth drop out while still in elementary school.

Did you know ...

In Quebec, school is compulsory until the age of 16.

Every year in Quebec, 18,200 young people drop out of high school without graduating. The prevalence of dropouts is slightly higher in boys than in girls. Moreover, in 2008, 68% of boys graduated from high school, while 80% of girls graduated.

Several factors can push a young person to leave school before graduating. Lifestyle and family income influence the dropout rate the most. In addition, there is a higher dropout rate in disadvantaged neighbourhoods and areas where families live in poverty, as opposed to  areas where families live comfortably. These factors are also related to school attendance and the difference between the public and private education systems, which influence the dropout rate.

Behavioural disorders and learning difficulties may also lead a young person to drop out. These problems often lead to school failure, which de-motivate young people and cause them to lose interest in education. What’s more, when a student feels depressed because of their academic performance, the probability of dropping out of school is 33%8.

Although part-time jobs are often encouraged among adolescents in their last years of high school, they may hinder studying. Some young people prefer to focus their efforts on their paid work and spend less time on their studies. Others will even quit school to devote themselves entirely to their jobs.

Finally, the use of drugs or alcohol is also a factor that can affect a student’s success and educational path. The dropout rate is also higher among people under the age of 20 who are starting families.

Leaving school without a diploma can have a significant impact on the life of a young person. For example, a dropout is more at risk of needing social support or experiencing bad working conditions. A dropout is also more likely to develop physical and mental problems, including depression.

Outher sources:
Ministère de l’Éducation, du Loisir et du Sport, Indicateurs de l’éducation, édition 2008.

Thinking about dropping out?

Here are some resources to guide your choice:

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Despite numerous laws and social systems that protect minors, many young people are now homeless and living on the streets. Some do not have families, others have left their homes or were forced out and are not being supported by a youth centre. Although some are sometimes able to find temporary accommodations, these places are often unclean, unsafe and frequented by other homeless people.

Often, youth homelessness is a consequence of other problems or events in their lives or within their family, including:

  • Poverty
  • Verbal or physical violence
  • Sexual abuse
  • Addiction to drugs, alcohol or psychotropic drugs
  • A mental health problem
  • Dropping out
  • Trouble with the law

We also note a higher rate of homelessness among young people who have lived in foster care or youth centres, young people who have physical disabilities, among homosexuals, recent immigrants, aboriginals and visible minorities.

The consequences of homelessness on the lives of many young people are both physical and psychological. Drug use, poor diet, unsafe sex, use of unsanitary conditions... All of these factors can seriously endanger someone's life. Some teens are tempted to commit crimes (theft, assault) in order to obtain goods such as clothing or food, and then find themselves caught in the justice system. What’s more, the constant state of violence and lack of resources in which homeless youth live can greatly increase their stress and anxiety. More than a third of them will develop depression, stress or post-traumatic disorder. Suicide is the second leading cause of death among homeless youth.

Useful resource:

Dans la rue
Dans la rue provides homeless young people with food and shelter and offers them support and friendship through services and programs to help them get back on their feet for good.

Montreal: 514.526.7677
Toll-free: 1.888.520-7677

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Sexuality and sexual orientation

Adolescence is a period of sexual exploration and discovery. Often it is also when we discover our sexual orientation.

Sexuality is an intimate affair specific to each person. It is often a matter of choice and taste, both in terms of sexual attraction and practices.

Although commonly associated, love and sex are not always mutual. It is possible to have a sexual partner you do not love but with whom you share pleasure. The important thing is to have respect for yourself and the other person.

It is normal to question your sexuality, especially at the beginning. Some issues and other factors may cause stress:

  • performance anxiety
  • embarrassment of being naked in front of someone
  • pain of first intercourse
  • fear of pregnancy
  • fear of judgment by others
  • physical problems such as erectile dysfunction or lacking lubrication

It is important to feel comfortable with your partner, to respect yourself and each other, and to proceed at your own pace, without pressure.


Being homosexual is also a matter of preference. A person is gay when they are sexually attracted to persons of the same sex.

Although this is a sexual orientation just like heterosexuality, certain taboos still exist in our society. Homosexuals sometimes have to deal with unreceptive attitudes about their preferences, their lifestyle, their choices. While for some, declaring their homosexuality will be well accepted by those around them, others will be rejected by their families, their friends. When acceptance or self-assertion is difficult because gender identity is viewed negatively, a person could possibly develop mental health problems, stress, anxiety, depression, etc.

In more serious situations, the pressure or rejection around them can even lead a person to suicide.

This section is drawn from the focus group report initiated by Gai Écoute entitled L’urgence d’agir - La prévention du suicide chez les personnes homosexuelles, une question de santé mentale, published on September 29, 2004. It is reproduced with the permission of Gai Écoute.

“While some people question the extent of suicide among homosexuals, few can deny that they go through an identity crisis regarding their sexual orientation, a period that is part of being gay.

This crisis period is characterized by questioning, discomfort, stress and anxiety related to the discovery and awareness of a sexual orientation that is not that of the majority, which makes people feel isolated and alone.

The timing, duration and age of this sexual identity crisis vary. It occurs at puberty and adolescence for many, upon adulthood for others, as we discover we are sexually attracted to a person of the same sex.

Generally, because of the secrecy surrounding homosexuality, homosexuals do not have the support of their loved ones, as is often the case in other difficult situations. Hiding behind silence and secrecy throughout this process, homosexuals face destabilizing factors, creating stress and anxiety.

Being a homosexual is not a problem in and of itself. Homosexuals do not suffer trauma from the mere fact of their sexual orientation, but rather from their exposure to homophobia. The social pressure behind homophobia creates an important stress. It manifests itself in every possible form, including rejection and discrimination, creating shame, isolation and solitude.

While the phenomenon is difficult to measure, there are an impressive number of studies about homosexuality and suicide that note the over-representation of cases of suicide among homosexuals.

Among the many studies filed, we should mention a Canadian study conducted by Bageley and Tremblay in 1997 of 750 young men in the Calgary area that showed that young homosexual and bisexual men account for 62% of suicide attempts among young men, although the homosexual population only represented 12.7% of the total sample.”

Useful resource:

Gay Line

Gay Line is a centre for assistance and information for people concerned about matters related to sexual orientation. It refers, informs and helps young people who are unsure about their sexuality.

Hot Line:
Montreal: 514.866.5090
Toll-freel: 1.888.505.1010

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Bullying and taxing

Bullying is continued physical or psychological violence carried out by one or more aggressors (bullies) against a victim, based on a relationship of domination. Bullying occurs when someone is threatened, beaten, shoved or locked in a room, but also when they receive hurtful or mean messages, when they are ridiculed, when rumours are spread about them or when they are wilfully isolated from the rest of the group.

Taxing is when a person or a gang of people steal property or money from someone, insult or scorn, threaten or hit them or require them to do things they don’t want to do.

Bullying can come in many forms: physical, verbal and social. What’s more, with the advent of social media, we are now dealing with cyberbullying.

While physical bullying refers to physical violence such as hitting someone or throwing objects at them, verbal bullying refers to the use of hurtful words, insults or threats towards a person. Social bullying is a group phenomenon where a person uses an entourage to spread rumors, disclose information or false negative about someone, or to shun them. Lastly, cyberbullying refers to spreading nasty messages about a person through technology, such as social media.

In high school, bullying (52% to 62%) is the primary reason for fear1. Fear of gangs and taxing is another source of insecurity (30% to 54%)2. In addition, approximately 15% of absenteeism in schools in North America is due to insecurity among children3.

Since bullying is repetitive by definition, it can be very traumatic with lasting effects on children and teens4. Generally, those who are victimized report symptoms of depression (sadness, loss of interest in their activities), anxiety (stress, fears and worries), and sometimes become more aggressive. Bullying can also have other consequences on a young person’s life:

  • They isolate themselves for self-protection
  • They change habits and behaviour, for example, they may avoid the playground
  • They live in a constant state of fear and may even develop anxiety
  • They may develop physical problems related to anxiety, or inflicted injuries
  • They find it hard to concentrate in school
  • Their self-esteem is greatly diminished
  • They could develop negative ideas, think about dropping out of school, running away and even suicide

Some people who have experienced some form of bullying during childhood report psychological problems in adulthood. They may feel guilt, continued distress, live in a state of fear, and even suffer from excessive depression5.

Lastly, young people who commit acts of bullying also show significant psychosocial conflicts. They may not have not learned to resolve their interpersonal conflicts and social frustrations. They need help to change their behaviour with others before it is too deeply rooted in power relations and domination6. In addition, children and teens who practice a form of bullying may, as adults, suffer from psychological disorders such as externalizing problems (conduct disorder), aggressive tendencies and, occasionally, of depression7.

If you are a victim of bullying or taxing, or you know someone who is, it is important not to take the situation lightly or wait for it to pass! The best thing to do is to talk to a trusted adult, or a parent, teacher or school counselor. They are in the best position to ensure your safety and have the resources to end the conflicts.

Useful resources:

Phone or online intervention service for teens.
The Tel-jeunes site provides information, answers questions, listens and offers advice to young people. You can find resources for yourself or a friend 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Montreal: 514.288.2266
Toll-free: 1.800.263.2266

The RCMP site

The site for the Service de police de la Ville de Montréal
Bullying and taxing

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Violence can take many forms: psychological, physical, intimidation, bullying, taxing, harassment, sexual assault, etc. It may also be present in different spheres of life: school, family, workplace, in a relationship, or simply unexpectedly in the street or in a public place. But whatever the action or insult, violence hurts and leaves marks on the body and the soul. Young people who experience some form of violence are much more likely to develop mental health problems, including generalized anxiety, major depression, a mood disorder or personality disorder.


Family Violence

Some young people live in families where physical and psychological violence is a fact of life. Because the family is supposed to be a safe place that’s conducive to development, violent situations can have a huge impact on the psychosocial development of a child or young person, and be the cause of:

  • Fear and anxiety
  • Self-harm
  • Eating disorders
  • Loss of self-esteem
  • Difficulty concentrating in school
  • Difficulties in interpersonal relationships
  • Anger
  • Shame
  • Guilt
  • Addiction
  • Violent behaviour towards others

Some young people think that running away or suicide is an escape from violence.

Dating violence

There are many myths about the normalcy of violent behaviour in love relationships (jealousy, sexual and psychological harassment, coercion). Studies show that violence in dating can affect anyone, no matter their age, race, sexual orientation, socio-economic situation or place of residence. It occurs both in relationships among teenagers and among adults.Thus, it is important to continue the educational work to equip young people so that they can develop respectful, equal relationships.

Sexual abuse

Sexual abuse can also take several forms. It may be harassment, which is characterized by threats of a sexual nature, sometimes vulgar and degrading, to another person without his or her consent. Sexual assault, whether by a stranger or someone you know, is also a form of abuse, which involves unwanted physical contact with an agressor or another person.

Useful links:

Government of Canada
An initiative against domestic violence.


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Drug addiction

First, a distinction has to be made between experimenting with drugs, as many teens do, and drug addiction. Drug addiction is a generic term to identify any dependency on a psychotropic substance, such as alcohol or illicit drugs (Health Canada, Best Practices – Methadone Maintenance Treatment, Ottawa, Canada’s Drug Strategy Division, 2002, p. 4). Psychotropic substances refer to any substance that acts on the central nervous system and influences how a person thinks, feels or acts.

Drug addiction refers to a dependency that sets in after a period of regular consumption. Usually progressive, it is accompanied by difficulties in functioning in one or several areas of life and a subjective suffering. Drugs occupy more and more space in a person’s life, accompanied by the feeling of loss of control. Often, in spite of people’s desire to stop, they can’t. The physical and psychological dependence creates an irresistible need to the detriment of health, functioning in society and relationships.

Alcohol, psychotropic drugs (Ativan, Halcion, Valium, Xanax, etc.), illegal drugs (marijuana, hashish, cocaine, heroine, etc.) are part of this mysterious world of drugs.

Drug abuse carries with it risks to every aspect of people’s lives; while the consequences differ depending on the person, the environment and the substance consumed, they have an impact on physical and mental health, relationships and family, school, work and even society in general.

Drug addiction can affect anyone, regardless of age, financial situation or lifestyle. However, though the rate of drug use among adults in Canada is 7.6%, consumption is much higher among adolescents. In fact, in 2009, an estimated 26.3%9 of young people had already used drugs, either occasionally or regularly. This is a little over one in four teens!

Several factors can push a teen to use alcohol or drugs. First, there is the attraction of the forbidden, the desire to try something illegal without getting caught and the fact that at this age is often considered "cool." Looking for specific sensations, some do it for fun. Others consume to imitate their friends, to integrate with a group and "be like everyone else." Lastly, some young people will look to drugs or alcohol to escape a reality where they do not feel comfortable. This may be due to problems at school, with friends or family, school failure, stress, violence, lack of self esteem, etc.

Unfortunately, these young people who consume to forget are at much greater risk of becoming addicted, as well as health problems related to organs like the liver, heart, lungs and stomach, sleep problems and mood disorders, such as a higher level of aggression or difficulty controlling their emotions.

According to the 2002 Mental Health and Well-being Survey (ESCC 1.2), around one in ten adults with anxiety disorders (9.6%) or mood disorders (11.3%) met the criteria of substance dependence in the last 12 months. This proportion was higher than among the general population presenting symptoms of substance dependency (3.0%)

Among alcoholics, 15% had also suffered from depression in the past year, compared to 4.8% among the general population. Depression was even more prevalent (26%) among people who were dependent on illegal drugs. Women who are dependent on alcohol are twice as likely as men to also suffer from depression. (Lukassen J, Beaudet MP. Alcohol dependence and depression among heavy drinkers in Canada. Social Science & Medicine. 2005; 61:1658-1667).

A recent study supports these findings, indicating that 70% of people who have taken part in a detox program had major depressive disorders. Thus, more and more specialists believe that drug addiction and alcoholism are factors of depression. (Joffe, T. Russel, Levitt Anthony J. Conquérir la dépression, Empowering Press, p. 36)

Useful resources:

Intervention service by phone or on-line for teens.
The Tel-jeunes site provides information, answers questions and listens, and offers advice to young people. You can find resources for yourself or a friend 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Montreal: 514.288.2266
Toll-free: 1.800.263.2266

Drugs: Help and referral
Strictly confidential; 24 hours a day, seven days a week; free bilingual service;
Montreal: 514.527.2626
Toll-free: 1.800.265.2626

Drug addiction emergency at Centre Dollard-Cormier
The Centre Dollard-Cormier is a public rehabilitation centre for region 06 (the Island of Montreal) that offers specialized services for drug addiction and excessive gambling.
Youth programs are available for people under 21.
Montreal: 514.385.1232 (Monday to Friday from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m.)
Drug addiction emergency: 514.288.1515 (24 hours a day, seven days a week)
Youth program: 514.982.1232

Other resources:

Health Canada, Best Practices - Methadone Maintenance Treatment,Ottawa, National Anti-Drug Strategy, 2002.
Joffe, T. Russel, Levitt Anthony J. Conquering Depression, Empowering Press.

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When a person experiences serious problems, whether  personal, professional, social or physical, their suffering can lead to the development of dark thoughts and suicide ideation. Although this situation can occur in anyone, the suicide rate is higher in people who are struggling to cope with life and among those who suffer from mental health problems. For these people, suicide is often seen as the only way to end their suffering. They become blinded by their problems and see death as the only solution.

In the midst of their physical and psychological development, teens are not always well equipped to overcome their difficulties. Some factors may also influence their attitude and perception of these problems, making them more likely to act, including:

  • Mental illness
  • History of depression or suicide in the family
  • Daily stress
  • Physical, mental or sexual abuse
  • Substance abuse

There is a well-established link between mental disorders and suicide: 80% to 90% of young people who commit suicide have a mental illness and, in half of these cases it is depression10. This link is explained by the fact that, when untreated, the disease can cause great psychological distress and lead to suicidal thoughts. Suicide is a leading cause of death among young people aged 15 to 29 in Quebec. Fortunately, thanks to the many resources available to counter the problem of youth suicide (such as the Partners for Life program), a recent study showed that over the last 10 years, the suicide rate has decreased nearly 25% in Quebec, including people under 18, amongst whom it has reduced by nearly 50%11.

The warning signs

For some time, your friend has not been doing very well and you think he or she might be considering suicide? Here are some signs to watch for in your friend’s behaviour:

  • A negative attitude most of the time
  • No interest in activities he loved
  • Isolation, doing very little at home
  • Greatly diminished social contacts
  • More aggressive and frequently places themselves in dangerous situations
  • Speaks of death or topics related to it

What to do?

If you have suicidal thoughts, it is absolutely essential to talk to someone — a friend or an adult you trust, like a parent, teacher, caregiver or even a health care professional. They will listen to you, reassure and advise you, and guide you to resources to help you get through the situation. The important thing is not to be alone with your problems and your dark thoughts.

Useful resources:

Intervention service by phone or on-line for teens.
The Tel-jeunes site provides information, answers questions, listens and offers advice to young people. You can find resources for yourself or a friend 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Montreal: 514.288.2266
Toll-free: 1.800.263.2266

Jeunesse J'écoute
Free, confidential service. Every day, the professionals at Jeunesse, J’écoute answer calls and e-mails from young people across the country. No matter what the problem or concern, representatives are there to offer information, support and referrals to young people in a timely and caring manner. The Jeunesse J’écoute Web site paints a precise picture of the different problems facing young people and has very helpful information about mental illness in terms of risk factors, symptoms and treatments.
Montreal: 514.273.7007
Toll-free: 1.800.668.6868

REVIVRE’s Youth Program is a group of services geared toward supporting teens and young adults from 14 to 25 suffering from depression, anxiety and bipolar disorders. It offers a wide variety of services: a hot line, support groups, individual counselling, as well as brochures (“Depressive Disorders in Young People,” “Young People and Bipolar Disorders”), books and videos.
The Youth Program, supervised by qualified workers, also informs parents of children who suffer from one of these illnesses.
Youth Program hot line: 514.529.3081, ext. 3
In Montreal: 514.738.4873
Outside Montreal: 1.866.738.4873

Association québécoise de prévention du suicide (AQPS)
AQPS provides suicide prevention services by phone in most regions of Quebec at any time of day. For suicide emergencies, call the following toll-free number from anywhere in Quebec:
1.866.APPELLE (277.3553)
Help for Life (pdf)

Suicide-Action Montréal (SAM)
Phone assistance for people in crisis, 24 hours a day; service for loved ones of people who are suicidal; services for people who are grieving.
Montreal: 514.723.4000
Toll-free: 1.866.277.3553

In case of a suicide emergency
Go directly to the hospital, call 911 or contact your local suicide prevention centre at 1 866 APPELLE (1.866.277.3553).

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  • Royal Canadian Mounted Police
  • Peter Hamilton and Kathleen Mauro, La prévention de l’intimidation dans Vie pédagogique, No. 129.
  • Department of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Canada (PSEPC)
  • Craig, Peters & Konarski, 1998; Glover, Gough, Johnson and Cartwright, 2000; Haynie et al., 2001; Pepler and Craig, 2000; Smith, 2000; Wilke, SD
  • Craig, Peters & Konarski, 1998; Fox et al., 2003, Haynie et al., 2001
  • Harris, Petrie, and Willoughby, 2002; Artz and Nicholson, 2002; Pepler and Craig, 2000
  • Cintia Quiroga. La dépression est un facteur de décrochage scolaire dans la Revue de psychoéducation (vol. 35, no 2)
  • National Group Intelligence Analysis, Criminal Intelligence, Royal Canadian Mounted Police. Report on the Illicit Drug Situation in Canada, 2009.
  • Systematic Review of Cavanagh et al., 2003, op. cit.
  • Lesage, A., & Moubarac, J.-C Analyse stratégique du programme Solidaire pour la vie de la Fondation des maladies mentales. Réseau québécois de recherche sur le suicide, 2011, p.4. and Gagné, M., and St-Laurent, D. (2010). La mortalité par suicide au Québec : tendances et données récentes – 1981 à 2008. Institut national de santé publique du Québec : Québec.