Is there a link between being in school and experiencing mental health issues?

Absolutely, says Grand River Hospital’s chief of child psychiatry.

“We feel like September’s the start of our new year,” John Heintzman tells CTV News.

Heintzman says elementary and high school students are already starting to show up in the hospital’s mental health unit, and university students will soon follow.

“Kids are coming to us in difficult situations – usually a mix of anxious feelings, depressive feelings, self-harming or suicidal thoughts,” he says.

Lucinda Gravelle can attest to that.

Her son was recently admitted to hospital with a number of mental health issues.

“We saw our son deteriorate cognitively in Grade 12 – he just wasn’t able to keep up. Then he started drinking and smoking marijuana like crazy, like an addiction,” she says.

“You see your child suffering, and you’re helpless. You really don’t know what to do and where to turn.”

Heintzman says the September increase is actually less pronounced than it was when he started working at the hospital 12 years ago.

“Over the last several years, we’ve noticed that many children continue to need to come to the hospital during the summer months,” he says.

The Canadian Mental Health Association estimates one in five school-age children have some sort of mental health issue.