Extraordinary children’s mental health needs arise from COVID-19April 27, 2023
Many more children have needed treatment for mental health conditions — particularly anxiety and depression — during the pandemic, compared to before. This is according to a report authored by the Children’s Health Policy Centre and released April 27/23.
Concerningly, this situation arises against a backdrop of stark pre-existing service shortfalls. Recent international estimates have suggested that only 44.2% of children with mental disorders were receiving any services for these concerns before COVID-19.
The report concludes that BC should make additional investments in children’s mental health, to offset future health care and related social costs and to better meet children’s needs.
Funded by the BC Representative for Children and Youth, the report begins by identifying eight studies in high-income jurisdictions. Seven of eight studies found that children’s mental health suffered during the pandemic. And across three of them, these increases in clinically-important problems were substantial — ranging from 48.1% to 94.2%.
Children’s mental health symptoms also changed during the pandemic, albeit with different patterns for different conditions. Multiple studies found that anxiety and depressive symptoms increased. In contrast, behaviour problems improved according to one study but were unchanged according to another. Substance-related outcomes varied as well, with nicotine and cannabis use and alcohol intoxication showing significant declines in some studies but no change in others.
Beyond increased mental health concerns, some children experienced additional challenges during the pandemic. Those from families facing socio-economic disadvantage tended to have poorer mental health outcomes. As well, children had more mental health difficulties when they knew someone who had experienced COVID-19 and when they had fewer supports and less consistent daily routines.
The report concludes: “Collectively, our current and future well-being depends on recognizing and addressing children’s rights to social and emotional well-being.”
The full report may be found here.