Anxiety and Youth

Are you a parent looking for resources to help your child or teenager living with anxiety? See our Resources for Parents.


  • Anxiety disorders are one of the most common mental health problems for children and youth.  In 2009, 4% of youth (12 to 19 years) and 5.8% of young adults (20 to 29 years) in Canada were diagnosed with an anxiety disorder. These rates were higher among young women and in Aboriginal populations.
  • Between 15% and 25% of Canadians experience at least one mental health problem or illness before they turn 19 years of age.  These youth have a higher likelihood than others of facing a second one later in their lifetime.
  • Only one in six people under the age of 19 is properly diagnosed, and only one in five individuals under the age of 12 years receives adequate treatment.
  • Mental health and mental illness can affect an individual’s well-being throughout his or her entire life. Positive mental health is correlated with a higher likelihood of completing school, positive social relations, higher levels of self-confidence and increased resilience in youth and young adults.

Source: Martha Butler & Melissa Pang, Current Issues in Mental Health in Canada: Child and Youth Mental Health, Publication no. 2014-13, Parliamentary Information and Research Service, Library of Parliament, Ottawa, 5 March 2014.

City of Ottawa Survey

In 2009, students in grades 7 to 12 across Ottawa shared their experience with mental health:

  • One in ten students rated their own mental health as poor or fair.
  • One in four students reported being bullied at school.
  • 40% of students felt constantly under stress.
  • One in four students visited a mental health professional in the past year.
  • Approximately 8% of students stated that they seriously considered attempting suicide in the past year.

In addition, one in three street-involved youth (aged 15 to 24 years) rated their mental health as poor or fair.

Source: City of Ottawa Public Health, Physicians’ Update, Special Issue on Mental Health, No. 91, April 2012.

Signs of Anxiety in Youth

Adolescence is a time of self-discovery and experimentation.  It is not uncommon for youth to display emotions such as moodiness, irritability and impulsiveness, or to experiment with drugs and alcohol.  Youth often have to deal with many social pressures and worries, which may affect their self-esteem and sense of identity.  At what point do these “normal” manifestations of development in adolescence become a sign of an anxiety disorder?

Children or youth may need professional help if they are so overwhelmed by their anxieties and fears that they have trouble functioning socially and/or academically.  Common signs of an anxiety disorder in youth include:

  • Crying a lot
  • Constantly worrying about grades
  • Always trying to be perfect / Being afraid to make mistakes
  • Not sleeping well / Having nightmares
  • Being afraid of the dark
  • Worrying about something horrible happening to loved ones
  • Feeling like you’re going crazy
  • Obsessing about dying
  • Avoiding friends or social situations
  • Being afraid of speaking up and asking questions in class
  • Blanking out or freezing up in stressful situations

Source:, What is an Anxiety Disorder?

The persistence of these signs over time may be indicative of an anxiety disorder, particularly if these situations interfere with daily life.

How Can I Manage My Anxiety?

Since 2013, the ADAO adapted its Anxiety Management Program to youth aged aged 18 to 24.  The ADAO Youth Program offers a toolkit of supportive resources to youth who experience anxiety in their daily lives.  Like the ADAO’s 14-Week Anxiety Management Program, the ADAO Youth Program offers complementary theories and strategies for anxiety management for youth, including cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT), psychotherapeutic methods, holistic approaches, and wisdom traditions / spirituality.

The ADAO Youth Program is run by two facilitators over the course of one semester (12 weeks).  The program takes place at Algonquin College, but is open to youth across Ontario.  The course is available for a registration fee of $545.  Participants with a clinical diagnosis of an anxiety disorder and who are on the Ontario Student Assistance Program (OSAP) may be fully covered for the cost of the program.

To register for the next youth program program, or for any inquiries, contact ADAO at 613.729.6761 or

For more information on the ADAO workshop, see ADAO’s 14 Week Anxiety Management Program.  Please note that the standard workshop described has been modified and tailored specifically for youth for the purposes of ADAO’s Youth Program.

How Do I Get Immediate Help for My Anxiety?

If you think you have an anxiety disorder, talk about it to your parents, teachers, counsellors, crisis phone lines, your family doctor, or any other adult you trust.

1. Hospital Emergency Department

If you are contemplating suicide, harm to yourself or to someone else, please ask someone to take you to the Emergency Department of a hospital immediately. 

Hospital Population Served Address
Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario (CHEO) Up to 18 years of age 401 Smyth Rd
Ottawa, ON, K1G 6W3
Hôpital Montfort All of Ottawa, and  particularly the Franco-Ontarian community 713 Montreal Road
Ottawa, ON, K1K 0T2
Ottawa Hospital Aged 16 years and up 501 Smyth Road
Ottawa, ON, K1H 8L6
TTY: 613-761-4024
Civic Campus:1053 Carling Ave. Ottawa, ON, K1Y 4EY
Queensway Carleton Hospital All ages 3045 Baseline Road
Ottawa, ON, K2H 8P4


For other non-urgent or semi-urgent situations, there are many local resources and coping strategies available to you:

2. Crisis Lines

Crisis lines provide support for individuals who are experiencing a crisis, and for parents, guardians, service providers, caregivers and friends.  They are a great resource for immediate supportive listening and crisis counselling, for information on community service providers, for referrals to youth services, for short-term follow up services, and (in some cases) for home-based interventions in Ottawa.

  • The Distress Centre of Ottawa and Region (613.238.3311) is a 24-hour distress line for individuals aged 16 years and over in the Ottawa (and Eastern Ontario) region.
  • Tel-Aide Outaouais (613-741-6433 in Ottawa or 819-775-3223 in Gatineau) is a 24-hour French crisis line for Francophones living in the Ottawa and Gatineau regions.
  • The Youth Services Bureau of Ottawa (YSB) 24/7 Crisis Line (613.260.2360 or toll free outside Ottawa at 1.877.377.7775) serves individuals up to 18 years of age.  The 24/7 Crisis Line includes a Mobile Crisis Team of counsellors who respond to crisis situations in Ottawa by travelling to the individual in crisis.  The mobile team operates from 4:30pm to midnight Mondays to Fridays, and 11am to 11pm Saturdays and Sundays.
  • The Ottawa Hospital Mental Health Crisis Line and Mobile Crisis Team (613.722.6914 or toll free outside Ottawa at 1.866.996.0991) are available for young adults over the age of 18.
  • Kids Help Phone (1.800.668.6868) offers phone and online services (Ask Us Online, Live Chat, Resources Around Me) , as well as an  Always There app (English only) for Android, iPhone and BlackBerry devices.

 3. Walk-In Counselling

  • The Youth Services Bureau (YSB) of Ottawa  (12 to 20 years).  The YSB offers a Youth Mental Health Walk-in Clinic (613.562.3004) for youth aged 12 to 20 years, their parents and/or guardians.  The clinic is located on the 2nd floor at 2301 Carling Avenue, and is open Tuesdays and Thursdays from 12pm to 8pm.  Services are free and offered in English and French.
  • The Coalition of Community Health and Resource Centres of Ottawa(CHRC) is a network of 13 multi-service, community-based health and resource centres.  Most Community Health Centres offer mental health walk-in services that are free for residents of the community.  You can use a locator tool to find your local CHRC.
  • The Walk-In Counselling Clinic provides immediate counselling services to individuals of all ages, as well as family counselling. The services are free and offered in English and in French.
Location Hours
Family Services Ottawa 312 Parkdale Avenue 613.725.3601 Tuesdays from 12pm to 8pm
Saturday from 12pm to 5pm
Jewish Family Services of Ottawa 300-2255 Carling Ave 613.722.2225 Wednesdays 12pm to 8pm
Sundays 12pm to 5pm
Catholic Family Services 310 Olmstead 613.233.8478 Thursdays 12pm to 8pm
Fridays 12pm to 5pm

4. Support and Self-Help Groups

  • ADAO’s Youth Program (613.729.6761) offers a 12-week workshop for youth, to support them in managing their anxiety.  The Youth Program provides a toolkit of supportive resources to youth who experience anxiety in their daily lives, through a blend of cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT), psychotherapeutic methods, holistic approaches, and wisdom traditions / spirituality.  Registration is required.
  • PLEO’s The Source – Young Adult Peer Support Group (613.321.3211) is a social, recreational group for young adults 16 to 24 managing a mental illness. The group meets Friday evenings from 7:00pm to 10:00pm at the McNabb Community Centre on Percy in the Assembly Hall to provide a safe, supportive, non-judgmental environment for youth.  Registration is required.
  • The Ottawa Peer Recovery Centre (OPRC) (613.710.6772) is a non-profit peer mental health organization dedicated to providing wellness recovery education and peer support by and for people whose lives have been affected by mental health issues or trauma, and for their adult family members.

For a comprehensive list of services, counsellors and resources, please visit:’s page on Anxiety Resources

Research and Advocacy on Youth Mental Health

  • The Mental Health Commission of Canada’s Youth Council is made up of youth aged 18 to 30 years with lived experience of mental health problems or illnesses, either personally or through a loved one.  The purpose of the Youth Council is to increase youth participation in service delivery and policy making with respect to youth mental health systems in Canada.
  • University of Ottawa Institute of Mental Health Research (IMHR), Youth Psychiatry UnitThe University of Ottawa’s IMHR regularly invites youth of different ages to participate in their on-going research studies.  For information on these studies, and to read about opportunities to participate in these studies, contact Research Coordinator Meagan Birmingham at 613-722-6521 ext. 6438 or

Further Reading

Martha Butler & Melissa Pang, Current Issues in Mental Health in Canada: Child and Youth Mental Health, Publication no. 2014-13, Parliamentary Information and Research Service, Library of Parliament, Ottawa, 5 March 2014.

Dr. Michael Cheng, MD, Overcoming Anxiety: Guide for Families.

K. Kellie Leitch, Reaching for the Top: A Report by the Advisor on Healthy Children and Youth , Catalogue no. H21-296/2007E, Health Canada, Ottawa, 2007.

Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care, “Mental Health in Children and Youth,” Mental Health Matters: Understanding Mental Health.

Ottawa Carleton District School Board, Toward an Ottawa-Carleton District School Board Mental Health Framework: A Discussion Paper, May 2012.

Dr. Anand Prabhu, “Helping Children Cope with Fear and Anxiety,” Health Stories, Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario (CHEO) – Information and strategies for parents of children living with anxiety

Public Health Agency of Canada, “The Current Health of Canada’s Youth and Young Adults,” in The Chief Public Health Officer’s Report on the State of Public Health in Canada, 2011: Youth and Young Adults – Life in Transition.