Did You Know?

Self-directed programs effectively addresses substance use

January 10, 2022

Families seeking help for children with substance use issues may benefit from a program called Substance Use Prevention for Girls. The program made a substantial impact, showing positive outcomes on all relevant measures. Specifically, intervention girls used less alcohol, less cannabis and fewer medications for non-medical purposes at one-year follow-up compared to controls. The success of the program may be linked to the fact that nearly 100% of all mother-daughter pairs completed all nine program modules. Another program, MobileCoach Alcohol, significantly reduced binge drink among youth by the end of the three-month follow-up. Specifically, the odds of not engaging in risky alcohol use were 1.6 times higher for youth who received MobileCoach Alcohol compared to controls. For more information see Vol. 14, No. 1 of the Children’s Mental Health Research Quarterly.

Self-help book may help prevent depression

January 3, 2022

The book Feeling Good details cognitive-behavioural strategies for reducing depressive symptoms. Written at a high-school reading level, the book guides readers to challenge unrealistic negative thinking and to increase their positive and productive activities. A study showed the book effectively prevented the development of depressive episodes for youth at two-year follow-up. In fact, youth who had been randomly assigned to read the book had eight times lower odds for developing depression compared with controls. For more information see Vol. 14, No. 1 of the Children’s Mental Health Research Quarterly.

Technology may help reduce children’s anxiety

December 13, 2021

Addressing childhood anxiety does not always involve working with a mental health practitioner. In fact, a video game called MindLight successfully helped children manage anxiety by using deep breathing and positive self-talk.  A randomized controlled trial found that MindLight was as effective as in-person group cognitive-behavioural therapy, according to child and parent ratings of children’s anxiety at six-month follow-up. For more information see Vol. 14, No. 1 of the Children’s Mental Health Research Quarterly.

Program helps parents address behaviour problems

December 6, 2021

Families seeking help for children with behaviour problems may benefit from a program known as Triple P Online with Telephone Support. A rigorous evaluation found this program led to improvements in child behaviour and reduced frequency of child disruptive behaviours. These findings were not only statistically significant, but also clinically meaningful. Parent satisfaction was also significantly higher with telephone support than without it. For more information see Vol. 14, No. 1 of the Children’s Mental Health Research Quarterly.

Barriers hamper prevention efforts

November 22, 2021

Beyond underfunding for children’s mental health services, additional barriers impede prevention efforts from reaching all those in need. These include:

  • Lack of individuals in rural communities with experience delivering prevention programs.
  • In Indigenous communities: staff shortages, high staff turnover, and interventions that fail to incorporate Indigenous perspectives and approaches.
  • Prevention services delivered in inconvenient settings or at inconvenient times.
  • Fear of stigmatization.

When children and families do enrol in prevention programs, other barriers can prevent them from fully benefiting. Studies have found that up to 80% of children and families do not complete mental health interventions. This issue is most likely to occur with children from families in low-income neighbourhoods. For more information see Vol. 14, No. 1 of the Children’s Mental Health Research Quarterly.

Nov. 20 is Universal Children’s Day

November 15, 2021

The United Nations’ Universal Children’s Day, which was established in 1954, is celebrated on November 20 each year to promote international togetherness and awareness among children worldwide. UNICEF, the United Nations Children’s Fund, promotes and coordinates this special day, which also works towards improving children’s welfare.

The original text promoting this special day reads:

  • The child must be given the means requisite for its normal development, both materially and spiritually
  • The child that is hungry must be fed, the child that is sick must be nursed, the child that is backward must be helped, the delinquent child must be reclaimed, and the orphan and the waif must be sheltered and succored.
  • The child must be the first to receive relief in times of distress.
  • The child must be put in a position to earn a livelihood and must be protected against every form of exploitation.
  • The child must be brought up in the consciousness that its talents must be devoted to the service of its fellow human beings.

But in a report published earlier this year in the journal Evidence-Based Mental Health,  the Children’s Health Policy Centre estimated that one in eight children have mental disorders at any given time, causing symptoms and impairment, therefore requiring treatment. Yet even in high-income countries, most children with mental disorders are not receiving services for these conditions. The report discusses the implications for this situation, particularly the need to substantially increase public investments in effective interventions. It also discusses the policy urgency, given the emerging increases in childhood mental health problems since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Readers can get access to the report, here.

Canada needs to invest more in prevention efforts

November 8, 2021

Effective prevention programs are particularly crucial to reduce the number of children in Canada needing mental health treatment services. Yet despite growing research evidence on effective programs, prevention efforts remain modest in many jurisdictions. This is not necessarily due to a lack of resources. Overall, between the government, insurance and individual citizens, Canadians spend an estimated $254 billion on health annually, or about $6,800 per person. But less than 6% of this spending goes toward public health, including prevention — with even less going toward the prevention of childhood mental disorders. For more information see Vol. 14, No. 1 of the Children’s Mental Health Research Quarterly.

More children need mental health help

November 1, 2021

An estimated 13% of children and youth in Canada have mental disorders at any given time, and most do not receive mental health care. Therefore, many more young people need to be reached. Taking a comprehensive public health approach is the best strategy for meeting these needs. Such a strategy involves addressing social determinants of mental health, including avoidable adverse childhood experiences; promoting healthy development for all children; preventing mental disorders in children at risk; providing treatment for all children with mental disorders; and monitoring outcomes. For more information see Vol. 14, No. 1 of the Children’s Mental Health Research Quarterly.

New study aims to help underserved mothers

October 25, 2021

Nicole Catherine — Scientific Director and Co-Principal Investigator for the BC Healthy Connections Project and Canada Research Chair Tier II nominee — has just been named recipient of a $25,000-Partnership Engage Grant from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada.

The grant will enable Catherine to partner with the Surrey-based Elizabeth Fry Society of Greater Vancouver, to explore the strengths and challenges facing their children and families. The team will recruit 40 expectant and new mothers accessing Elizabeth Fry programs and services such as shelters, food banks and mental health supports.

Mothers will be asked about their perceived barriers to engaging in a potential new parenting program — for example, whether they feel comfortable and included, whether they work irregular hours, or can afford transport. The project will support training for a graduate student in the Faculty of Health Sciences, and will involve a project Advisory Group involving members of the provincial government, local mother-child-serving organizations, and peer-workers who are mothers themselves.

The project, which is scheduled to finish in May 2022, is expected to help Elizabeth Fry Society design responsive parenting programs to better support children and families experiencing disadvantage.

Five principles should underlie substance use prevention efforts

October 18, 2021

A systematic review conducted by the Children’s Health Policy Centre made five recommendations for practitioners and policy-makers to consider when trying to prevent problematic substance use. They were:

  • Consider underlying factors. While targeted prevention efforts should include youth with early substance use, other underlying factors should also be considered and addressed.
  • Weigh the value of short programs. For some youth, very brief interventions may curtail problematic substance use.
  • Tailor interventions to the level of adversity. Some youth have experienced very serious adversities, such as child maltreatment necessitating foster care, and may require more intensive interventions.
  • Recognize the value of school-based delivery. Schools can be a good venue for targeted prevention programs.
  • Address youth substance use with a comprehensive strategy. Intervention efforts need to be part of a larger public health strategy. For example, by addressing social determinants, such as family socio-economic disadvantage, risks that  contribute to substance problems for young people can be reduced.

For more information, see Vol. 13, No. 4 of the Children’s Mental Health Research Quarterly.