According to the Canadian Mental Health Association, approximately 1 in 5 children and youth in Ontario has a mental health challenge. About 70% of mental health challenges have their onset in childhood or youth. To help them with better outcomes, we can look for the signs and symptoms of mental health issues in the children of our lives, line them up with the right supports, and also do everything we can to help them cope before it becomes a major issue.
May 7th was National Child and Youth Mental Health Day, so we’d like to use this time to shed some light on the issues and also set you up with some resources to support you and your loved ones.
A Review of the Impact
In their Rapid Review published January 2021, Public Health Ontario organized findings from studies around the globe, about the impact of community responses to COVID-19 on children and youth. While a full detailed listing of findings are outlined in the link above, some key findings include:
- Young children and adolescents were affected differently by the COVID-19 response: Parents of young children reported more behavioural difficulties, hyperactivity, and conduct problems, while adolescents were more likely to have increased anxiety and depressive symptoms, increased suicidal ideation, and increased frequency of alcohol consumption for those reporting any use.
- Parental stress was linked to negative child outcomes. The level of parents’ perceived stress due to the COVID19 pandemic may exacerbate or buffer mental health and behaviour problems in children.
- Other child outcomes negatively impacted by the pandemic included movement behaviours (decreased physical activity, increased sedentary behaviour and screen time), increased food insecurity, negative educational outcomes, increased injuries occurring at home, and increased reports of child maltreatment.
- While use of health services decreased, illness severity increased, and visits for mental health reasons increased in the later weeks of the pandemic. There may have been some parents delaying care for their children due to fear of acquiring COVID-19 infection in the hospital.
- Although this review identified many relevant studies, most were convenience samples. As such, families from diverse ethnicities or racialized communities, who are more likely to experience greater social and health inequities which may be exacerbated during the pandemic, are systematically underrepresented.
These key findings were based on studies from May-October 2020, and they found that the magnitude and number of negative impacts appeared to be increasing as well. Here we are, half a year later, so it naturally highlights the importance of all of our efforts in supporting the children as well as the parents in our communities – especially our communities here in Parkdale, which represents one of the most diverse and communities in Toronto.
What Can You Do?
Awareness: We can all become more aware of the range of mental health issues in children and youth, and the signs and symptoms to look out for. Check out the Child Mind Institute’s Symptom Checker if you are concerned about a child in your life, to help you navigate next steps.
Caregiver support: If you are a caregiver and in need of support, please call Creating Together right away so that we can line you up with support and resources. Whether it’s a friendly ear or a referral, we are here for you. Also, you can find a number of resources to support families and caregivers here: https://ontario.cmha.ca/documents/family-and-caregiver-support/
Ecotherapy: Spending time in nature improves mood, gets us moving, builds confidence, and helps with concentration. Here are some ideas for getting your kids outdoors.
Integrative Approach: Consider an integrative approach to mental wellness, including reducing additives, addressing vitamin deficiencies, and immune support. There are a number of integrative medicine practitioners in Toronto that you can reach out to.
We are here for you. Please drop by the Center if you need mental health support or just somebody to talk to. The Center is closed, but we are in between 9-4pm every day so just knock!