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The Covid-19 Pandemic Impact on Canadian Youth Mental Health and What Parents Can Do

Over the past year, we have seen some of the impacts that the Covid-19 pandemic has had on the worsening mental health for many Canadians. Specifically, recent research has shown that COVID-19 has had a negative impact on the mental health of Canadian youth.

Covid-19 & Canadian Youth: Mental Health Statistics

Last October, Statistics Canada found that youth aged 15-24 reported the greatest declines in their mental heath resulting from the Covid-19 pandemic – “20 percentage point reduction from 60% (pre-COVID) to 40% (July 2020).”

Another report published earlier this year called “COVID-19 in Canada: A One-year Update on Social and Economic Impacts” showed a correlation between the deteriorating mental health of youth and the tightening of restrictions. The article stated, “Self-reported mental health of youth aged 15-24 rebounded in the fall as restrictions eased, but fell again in November as tighter public health measures came into effect.”

Findings like these are far from rare or unexpected. Canadians of all backgrounds are experiencing similar emotions and frustration about the ongoing situation. However, it is particularly disheartening to hear about the detrimental effects that the pandemic has had on our country’s children and youth.

Recent Canadian Youth Mental Health Research Findings

A recent study led by The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids) found that a large majority of children and youth experienced negative impacts on their mental health during the first wave of the pandemic. Over 1,000 parents of children and youth aged two to 18 years old, and nearly 350 youth between 10 and 18 years old were surveyed for their research.

SickKids found that around 70% of school-aged children – aged 6 to 18 years old – experienced deterioration in at least one of six domains: depression, irritability, anxiety, attention span, hyperactivity and obsessions/compulsions.

Furthermore, in British Columbia, an ongoing study by B.C. Children’s Hospital has also shown a sharp increase in youth and children participants dealing with mental health struggles. Their findings showed that two-thirds of participants reported anxiety, mood issues, and suicidal ideation, which is up from one-third of participants recorded before the onset of the pandemic.

What Can You Do as a Parent?

For parents and caregivers, a number of educational resources are available primarily focused on supporting mental health in children and youth. According to The Ministry of Children and Family Development’s Child and Youth Mental Health (CYMH), some ways to support children and youth include:

  • Talk to your child or youth calmly about Covid-19, ask how they are feeling, and listen to their response.
  • Maintain routines as much as possible to support a sense of “normal.”
  • Increase play time, inside and out, keeping all Covid-19 health & safety precautions in mind.
  • Encourage and support good nutrition and sleep schedules.
  • Take a break from the news; monitor and limit media about Covid-19.

A more comprehensive list of child and youth mental health COVID-19 resources can be found on the official website for the Government of BC.

Author: Oliver Zhang