Nurse-Family Partnership findings featured in podcast

Findings from the Children’s Health Policy Centre’s scientific evaluation of the Nurse-Family Partnership program are the subject of a recent podcast recorded with SFU assistant professor Nicole Catherine, co-principal investigator for the randomized-controlled trial.

The podcast was recorded by the Association for Child and Adolescent Mental Health (ACAMH), the organization for the journal that published the main child findings in July 2023.

“I relished the chance to be able to speak about these important findings,” Catherine said. “I’m committed to ensuring that the voices of these young families, as told through their research data, are heard and amplified,” she added.

The podcast recording can be found here.

Bullying happens in Canada and BC

Data reveals important information about Canadian children’s experiences with bullying. A study of 1,000 youth ages 10 to 17 found more than 26% reported being bullied at least once in the past month, with most reporting both in-person and online experiences. And among BC students aged 12 to 19 years, 53% reported experiencing at least one of three forms of bullying in the past year. This included 39% having been socially excluded on purpose, 38% being teased to the point of feeling bad or extremely uncomfortable, and 8% being physically bullied. As well, 4% of students reported missing school due to bullying in the past month.

Many of the same bullying experiences were documented among Métis students in BC. Specifically, 41% were socially excluded on purpose, 47% were teased to the point of feeling bad or extremely uncomfortable, and 13% were physically bullied. For more information, see Vol. 15, No. 4 of the Children’s Mental Health Research Quarterly.

Experiences of bullying are relatively common

A recent meta-analysis of 80 studies involving youth ages 12 to 18 found that just over 34% reported perpetrating in-person bullying and just over 15% reported perpetrating cyberbullying. While rates of in-person bullying were slightly more than double those of cyberbullying, the two types were strongly correlated, leading the study’s authors to conclude that in-person bullying and cyberbullying were in essence just different ways of enacting similar behaviours. For more information, see Vol. 15, No. 4 of the Children’s Mental Health Research Quarterly.

Two new studies on Covid-19 published by CHPC scholar

A new study on the Covid-19 pandemic by SFU Assistant Professor and CHPC team member Kim Thomson, has just been published in Plos One.

The study found that parents with children at home reported nearly double pre-pandemic population estimates of moderate to severe psychological distress.

Psychological distress was more frequently reported among parents with pre-existing mental health conditions, disabilities and financial stressors. As well, parents with greater psychological distress reported an increase in negative interactions with their children as a result of the pandemic, and perceived higher anxiety in their children.

“These results highlight that meaningful responses to promote mental health among parents and families must address social and structural inequalities,” the report concluded.

In the same timeframe, Thomson was also co-author of another paper on the Covid-19 pandemic, this one published in the Journal of Adolescence. It profiled the social connectedness among early adolescents in Grade 7 before the pandemic was declared (Winter 2020) and in Grade 8 during the second wave of the pandemic (Winter 2021).

The paper concluded that connectedness with peers and adults in Grade 7 was significantly related to higher levels of mental wellbeing in Grade 8 even during the Covid-19 pandemic, highlighting the protective role of social connection.

 

 

 

NFP put on the agenda for Interior Health nurses

Charlotte Waddell, Centre Director, joined BC Ministry of Health lead partners for the Sept. 26 Annual Education Meeting held online for approximately 10 public health nurses with BC’s Interior Health Authority.

The focus was Nurse-Family Partnership (NFP) and a review of the main findings from the 10-year randomized controlled trial that the Centre has led. This trial has evaluated NFP in Canada for the first time. Nicole Catherine and Harriet MacMillan are co-leads with Waddell.

The study has shown that NFP reduces prenatal substance exposure and improves child language and mental health by age two years. All three outcomes are crucial for early healthy development.

Waddell also spoke about the high number of Indigenous participants and about ongoing work with Indigenous collaborators to tell the stories of these participants. As well, she noted long-term follow-up plans: “In the US and England, NFP led to enduring benefits in middle school and beyond, so we are also committed to learning how well NFP works to help children longer-term in BC.”

Child and youth mental health practitioners and policymakers urged to address service gaps

Charlotte Waddell, Centre Director, gave a Sept. 14 talk with the Doctors of BC, Community of Practice on Child and Youth Mental Health. The talk was titled, “Children’s mental health: Research for informing practice and policy.”

Waddell covered crucial messages including the high prevalence of childhood mental disorders and the severe service shortages — with fewer than half of children with these disorders getting any kind of help.

For this talk, which took place in Vancouver with an audience of approximately 100 family physicians, child and youth psychiatrists and policymakers, among others, she urged strong advocacy — to not only address the service gaps, but also ensure that BC invests in effective prevention programs to reduce needs in the population. Waddell noted: “Your advocacy can and will be very powerful in making a difference for children.”

Bullying can lead to long-term mental health problems

What counts as bullying? Most definitions of bullying agree that it involves aggression both intentional and repetitive, occurring in situations where there is a power imbalance between individuals. This definition recognizes that bullying can take various forms, including physical, verbal and social. This definition also acknowledges that proximity can vary, from bullying in person to bullying online.

Regardless of definition, there is no question about the seriousness of childhood bullying, since bullying has led to children dying by suicide. Even if the consequences are not as dire, being victimized in childhood has been causally linked with subsequent mental health problems, including anxiety, depression and suicidality. As well, longitudinal studies have demonstrated continuing mental health challenges for victims of childhood bullying into middle age. As a result, there is a collective ethical imperative to understand and stop childhood bullying. For more information, see Vol. 15, No. 4 of the Children’s Mental Health Research Quarterly.

October is ADHD Awareness month

Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder or ADHD affects children of every age, gender, IQ, religious and socio-economic background. During October — which is ADHD awareness month — parents and practitioners are reminded that ADHD is the second most common mental health disorder in children, exceeded only by anxiety.

While medication is often seen as a first resort for such children, there is evidence supporting child Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), behavioural therapy and neurofeedback. Unlike medications, these psychosocial treatments have the added advantage of continuing to show benefits months after the intervention ends. Another advantage for both CBT and behavioural therapy is that many practitioners are familiar with these interventions, making their implementation feasible. Child CBT and behavioural therapy are therefore highly recommended. For more information, see Vol. 11, No. 1 of the Children’s Mental Health Research Quarterly.

New scholar joins the Children’s Health Policy Centre

A passion for child and youth mental health has brought Kimberly Thomson to Simon Fraser University and the Children’s Health Policy Centre.

Recently named an Assistant Professor in the Faculty of Health Sciences, Thomson started her academic career by earning an undergrad degree in psychology from Queens University. Thinking initially what she’d become a counsellor, she did her Master’s degree in educational and counselling psychology at the University of BC.

“But I ended up pivoting away from a purely clinical perspective when I started working with a team looking at children’s health from a population level,” Thomson recalls. She then joined the Human Early Learning Partnership (HELP)  team at UBC, becoming a research coordinator supporting the pilot of a population-based survey of child wellbeing.

Shortly after that, she began her PhD in population and public health. Her dissertation focused on finding early indicators of children’s social and emotional development at the time they entered school. Her objective? To see how these indicators related to the children’s future mental health and well-being, using both public health administrative data and also children’s self-reports.

“One of the main takeaways was that more than 40% of children entering the school system were showing up with relative social-emotional vulnerabilities,” she said, citing higher than average scores for issues such as anxiety or hyperactivity.

Following graduation, Thomson did a post-doc in Melbourne, Australia, where she worked at Deakin University with a group studying the social factors and conditions that predict child and youth mental health. There, she was helping to investigate one of the earliest origins of childhood mental health challenges – among the parent’s generation. “We suspect there are multiple pathways between generations,” she says. “It can be genetic, but it can also be psychological and social.”

But, caught in the crosshairs of the Covid pandemic, Thomson returned to Canada earlier than expected, in 2020. She transferred back to HELP and began looking at mental health outcomes among subgroups that might have experienced inequities, including children who came to Canada as immigrants or refugees. She also studied the impacts of the pandemic on child and youth mental health, including working with the Canadian Mental Health Association, the BC Ministry of Education and the BC Teachers’ Federation.

Most recently, she worked at the BC Centre for Disease Control as an evaluation specialist with the population and public health team. “This was a great opportunity to apply my skills in evaluating programs and initiatives that are trying to address underlying social factors — such as food insecurity — that influence population health,” she said.

But when an opportunity arose with the Children’s Health Policy Centre, Thomson leapt at the chance. “I’ve always been interested in the intersection between research and policy and practice,” she says. “What drew me to the CHPC was the alignment of our goals. I’m especially interested in opportunities to intervene earlier when interventions are more likely to be effective.”

Right now, she’s developing her research and teaching portfolios and making plans for grant applications. She’s also going to be joining Charlotte Waddell and Nicole Catherine on SFU’s developmental trajectories research challenge team, for the Faculty of Health Sciences.

“I think we share the same goals,” she says. “Our focus is on improving well-being for all children and doing it through policy.”

World mental health day is Oct. 10

World Mental Health Day — an Oct. 10 United-Nations-sponsored event — gives people and communities a chance to unite behind the theme “Mental health is a universal human right.”

Reports by the UN Human Rights office have shown that people with mental health conditions and those with psychosocial disabilities experience disproportionately higher rates of poor physical health and reduced life expectancy. Stigma is also a significant determinant of quality care and access to the full range of services required.

Access to better living conditions, security, food, shelter and housing are all necessary for people’s mental health. Yet one in eight people globally are living with mental health conditions, which can impact their physical health, their well-being, how they connect with others, and their livelihoods. Mental health conditions are also affecting an increasing number of adolescents and young people.

For more information on the prevalence of childhood mental disorders in high-income countries, see here.