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Published February 2024
By Helena Smrcek

Standing in line at my local bank, I was slowly losing patience. How did I not realize that the end of the month would bring in a steady stream of senior citizens paying their bills. In person. Observing this phenomenon, I noted that the reason it took the teller an extraordinary length of time to process the little piles of paper bills was because their clients kept on chatting. They came for the social interaction. Perhaps that is why they looked to me at least a hundred years old. If I ever reach that age, I doubt there will be a bank in my neighbourhood with a teller that I can talk to.

As the minutes ticked by, my eyes wondered, till the screens captured my attention. The ads for banking products, RSP reminders and bank’s community outreach programs would have not been my choice of entertainment, had I not left my phone in the car. But when the screen flashed a result of a recent study, citing that 1-in-2 young people in Canada struggle with mental health, my boredom was instantly replaced with a mild shock.

Was this correct? Is every other young person struggling to simply function on daily basis. The stat stuck with me, and I wanted to find the source. Googling this snippet of information, didn’t produce the above-mentioned study, but provided me with additional disturbing information:
  • Data on mental health shows that young people aged 15-24 are the most likely age group to experience mental health issues.
  • For example, studies indicate that 39% of high-school students in Ontario have experienced some level of anxiety or depression.
  • Suicide is the second leading cause of death for 15 to 24-year-olds after accidents in Canada.

I can’t get that out of my head. And I must ask why is that? We live in the most prosperous times in history, our healthcare can address issues that killed thousands only a century ago. Our grocery stores are filled with food. We have central heat. Clothing and shoes. Most of us live in luxury only imagined by most of our world. So, what is so wrong with us?

And here lies the problem. Asking what’s wrong with us might trigger a red flag for some. Our society is hyper-focused on issues that our predecessors had no luxury to entertain, as they worked their fields, build railroads, and struggled for daily survival.

I’m not one to long for return to the middle-ages, but considering our recent studies, I think it’s high time that we step back and look what the past three decades brought us.

As I’m not an expert, I can only use my life as a source of experience. The common sense derived from the years under my belt, so to speak, may have some value.

Yes, I too battled depression. And it’s a terrible state to be in. I remember days, months that seemingly had no end, when a thick black fog filled my mind, and I couldn’t see an escape route.

The first time it hit me was in 1986, right after our family defected our communist-ruled homeland. Stripped of everything, we ended up in a refugee camp, not knowing what our future would look like.

My parents, totally unprepared for the reality they brought their three children into, also sunk into a deep depression. That left me, a teenager, with the responsibilities beyond my years.

But in the midst of all that, there was a knock on our door. Andy and Gillian, smiles on their faces, held out a shoe box, wished me Merry Christmas and invited me to a Coffee House Meeting, promising free cookies and Bible study. Raised in an atheistic society, I had no idea what they were talking about. But they kept smiling, and I really wanted to know what was in that box. We became friends.

I remember Ken and Carla, to me then an older couple, who gave me a beautiful perfume for my birthday. Only decades later I realize how much they cared for me, and how much they prayed behind their closed door.

Moving to Canada in the middle of freezing February was another trigger. More triggers followed: attending high school, where I felt like an idiot, because I had no language skills; struggling to find my first restaurant job; first place to live; losing my first pregnancy; having our first child…Life is a fight.

I’m not sharing this to paint myself as some kind of a hero. What I want to say is that no one, despite the highlight reels, has it all together. And feeling sad, or depressed, is not an uncommon thing. Most of us, from time to time, do, for life never stops throwing us curve balls.

But there is so much hope. And I believe by removing God from our mainstream society we have removed the source of hope from our generation. As a young woman, in a refugee camp, I slowly discovered, through the love of others, that God really cared for me. I found out that I was not an accident. God designed me. He placed me on this Earth with a specific purpose, and for this purpose, He gave me gifts.

I wonder how many people need to hear this. The focus of our young generation is directed as far away from faith as possible. And this makes me thankful for every single youth leader, praying parent, counsellor, and dedicated teacher in this country because there is a remnant that fights for our youth.

My prayer is that God would show me a way to reach this mission field that is a vast as our Canadian prairies. Each of us possesses a God given gift, a talent, a purpose. Every individual is important, and perhaps we have neglected to repeat that to our youngsters. They are so lost and in so much pain, that death seems the better choice. How horrifying is that? I have read an interesting thought the other day: “It’s the loss of hope that kills”. Let’s bring hope back to the lives of our young people. There is so much to live for in our wonderful country. The problems that seem so overwhelming are not unsurmountable, especially if we allow God to enter the equation. With his grace and mercy, we made it this far, and Jesus isn’t finished with us yet. Let’s pray and invite Him into this mess.

About the author...
Helena Smrcek
, a journalist, author, and screenplay writer, believes in the power of a well-told story. Her readers can expect a captivating page-turner, filled with thrilling suspense, and heartwarming romance.

She started in publishing as a high school student, freelancing for Mississauga News. Her journalism carrier took off in 1999. Within three years Helena accumulated over 100 by-lines and interviewed Ann Graham Lotz, Carol Lewis, Cec Murphey, Kelita, and others. Her stories, many of them covers, have been published in Canada, the USA, Bermuda, New Zealand, and Australia. In 2002 she accepted a position at Listen Up TV, a current affairs program.

Helena became a founding member of Write!Canada, and The Word Guild, a Canadian national association of writers and editors. She is a graduate of Jerry Jenkin’s Craftsman Class, Act One, Donald Maass’ Fire in Fiction, Writer’s Police Academy, and several mentoring programs.

She regularly attends writers’ conferences and is a past or current member of such organizations as Word Weavers, American Christian Fiction Writers, Sisters in Crime, Toast Masters International, Boni, The Writer’s Guild, and others. Helena loves to participate in NaNoWriMo and hosts a writers’ group.

Click HERE to visit Helena’s website.