Did You Know?

Teachers play an important role in respecting diversity

September 11, 2023

Researchers have identified how teacher feedback can affect children’s acceptance of migrant peers. They conducted a study with nearly 1,000 students in Grades 3 to 6 in Germany, Austria and Switzerland. First, students saw photos of children they did not know on a computer screen and were asked to rate how much they would like to sit beside them. The photos included both migrant and non-migrant children. Then students were told that teachers often praised the children on the screen for being attentive or, alternatively, often scolded them for being inattentive. Teacher feedback significantly influenced students’ stated willingness to sit beside migrant children, with positive comments increasing this willingness and negative comments decreasing it. These results suggest that teachers can play an important role in changing children’s attitudes and helping them to appreciate diversity. For more information, see Vol. 15, No. 3 of the Children’s Mental Health Research Quarterly.

Mark FASD awareness and suicide prevention in September

September 4, 2023

Two preventable health concerns are marked by back-to-back special days in September.

Sept. 9 is international Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) Awareness Day. In fact, September itself is an Awareness month in Canada for the condition — which is created by prenatal alcohol exposure, affecting brain and body development in utero. FASD is considered the leading cause of preventable developmental disabilities in Canada. While there is no cure, services and supports play an important role in preventing it. Not drinking alcohol, in any amount and at any point during or when planning a pregnancy, is the only way to fully prevent it. For more information, see Vol. 5, No. 2 of the Children’s Mental Health Research Quarterly.

Then, Sept. 10, marks World Suicide Prevention Day. Suicide is the second leading cause of death in Canada, behind only unintentional injuries, for 15- to 19-year-olds, and the third leading cause for 10- to 14-year-olds. Researchers have also documented differing patterns in Canadian youth suicide rates over time, by gender. Between 2000 and 2018, the suicide rate for boys between 10 and 19 years declined slightly. But the comparable suicide rate for girls showed a statistically significant increase of 0.09 deaths per 100,000. Suicide, of course has a devastating impact on families. For more information, see Vol. 16, No. 4 and Vol. 17, No. 1 of the Children’s Mental Health Research Quarterly.

International Overdose Awareness Day is Aug. 31

August 28, 2023

International Overdose Awareness Day is the world’s largest annual campaign to end overdose, remember without stigma those who have died from overdose, and acknowledge the grief of the family and friends left behind. Campaign resources linked to the day can be picked up here. The theme for 2023, “Recognizing those people who go unseen” is about acknowledging people in our communities who have been affected by overdose but might go unseen in the crisis.

The Children’s Health Policy Centre recognizes that some of the unseen may be young people — whether through their own substance use problems or as a result of a parent’s overdose. To learn more about helping prevent young people from engaging in problematic substance use, see Vol. 13, No. 4 of the Children’s Mental Health Research Quarterly.

International Youth Day is Aug. 12

August 7, 2023

The word “ageism” tends to be associated with seniors but, in fact, children and youth are also affected by this form of discrimination. A Global Report on Ageism launched by the United Nations in March 2021 highlights that young people continue to report age-related barriers in various spheres of their lives such as employment, political participation, health and justice.

International Youth Day, on Aug. 12, is intended to celebrate the power of partnerships across generations. A video message from the UN’s Secretary General can be viewed here.

The need to fight racism begins in childhood

July 24, 2023

Researchers have long studied the origins of racial identities and prejudicial attitudes — starting in childhood. Early studies showed that children typically began to identify as belonging to a specific “race” around age three or four years. Studies have also found that white children begin to show a pro-white bias, including a preference for playing with white peers, when they are as young as three to five years. These findings suggest that antiracism efforts should begin early. For more information, see Vol. 15, No. 3  of the Children’s Mental Health Research Quarterly.

Data suggest greater inequity for racialized young Canadians

July 17, 2023

Data focused exclusively on Canadian children reveal stark differences in the experiences of racialized children compared with non-racialized children — from infancy through adolescence. For example, infant mortality is 3.9 times higher for Inuit, 2.3 times higher for First Nations and 1.9 times higher for Métis children compared with non-Indigenous children.

As well, the rate of foster placements is over 13 times higher for Indigenous young people compared with non-Indigenous. Similarly, while Black children make up about 9% of the Canadian population, they represent approximately 24% of children receiving child protection services.

Racialized Canadian children may also experience greater hardships and disparities in the education system. For example, while high-school graduation rates for Indigenous young people have increased substantially over the past 15 years in BC, they are still lower than other youth — at 69.6% for Indigenous students versus 86.5% for non-Indigenous. As well, Ontario data collected over the past two decades show that Black students were more likely than non-Black students to receive harsher punishments, to be streamed into academic tracks that excluded post-secondary access, and to drop out of school.

Youth criminal justice system data also suggest greater inequity for racialized young people. For example, Indigenous youth account for 50% of admissions to custodial facilities despite representing only 8% of Canadian youth. As well, Ontario police data show that Black youth are more likely to be charged and less likely to be only cautioned for minor offences than their non-Black counterparts.

For more information, see Vol. 15, No. 3 of the Children’s Mental Health Research Quarterly.

Racism affects both physical and mental health

July 10, 2023

As a determinant of health, racism has a profound impact on child well-being. Its many negative effects for racialized young people include:

  • restricted access to resources, such as housing, education and employment;
  • increased exposure to negative experiences, such as racist incidents and unnecessary contact with the criminal justice system;
  • increased engagement in unhealthy behaviours to cope with the stresses of racism, such as substance use; and
  • increased rates of physical injury as a result of violence.

To investigate the effects of racism on social and emotional well-being, researchers combined findings from more than 120 observational studies involving young people from
birth through age 18. Most of these studies were conducted in the United States, although
Canada and many other countries were also represented. Drawing on the experiences of
Black, Latinx, Asian and Indigenous children, the meta-analysis found many significant
links between racial discrimination and poorer well-being. Mental health concerns were
the most frequent, including depression, anxiety and conduct problems, as well as self-esteem and self-worth concerns.

Racism also has detrimental effects on children’s physical health. A study that included more than 95,000 American children aged 18 and younger found that those who experienced racial discrimination had a significantly lower likelihood of reporting that they were in excellent health, compared with those who did not have such experiences. As well, children exposed to racial discrimination were more likely to experience common childhood illnesses. The physical impact of racism also starts early, with low birth weights and preterm births being linked to maternal experiences of racial discrimination.

For more information, see Vol. 15, No. 3 of the Children’s Mental Health Research Quarterly.

Racism causes substantial damage

July 3, 2023

Race is a social construct used to classify individuals who share common features, such as skin colour. Because the concept does not reflect biology, parameters for classifying individuals or groups have changed over time, as have the words used to describe so-called races. Racism, in turn, occurs when people’s worth is assigned based on their identified race in ways that unfairly disadvantage some groups while simultaneously advantaging others.

Racism results in avoidable and unfair disparities in power, resources and opportunities — for individuals and groups and within institutions and social systems. And, both children and adults feel the impact of racism. Adults, however, hold the responsibility for working to eradicate racism and the damages it causes.

For more information, see Vol. 15, No. 3 of the Children’s Mental Health Research Quarterly.

National Indigenous Peoples Day takes place June 21

June 19, 2023

June 21 marks National Indigenous Peoples Day in Canada — a day to recognize and celebrate the heritage and cultures of First Nations, Inuit and Métis Indigenous peoples. In cooperation with Indigenous organizations, the Government of Canada chose June 21, the summer solstice, for National Indigenous Peoples Day. For generations, many Indigenous peoples and communities have celebrated their culture and heritage on or near this day due to the significance of the summer solstice as the longest day of the year. While Indigenous children have experienced, and still experience, the negative legacy of colonialism, many of them remain resilient. A survey of nearly 5,000 First Nations youth in Canada found that more than half reported having very good or excellent mental health. For more information, see Vol. 12, No. 2, page 5 of the Children’s Mental Health Research Quarterly.

June is Pride Month

June 12, 2023

Pride month, for the LGBTQ+ community and their families and friends, began with Pride marches in the 1970s in major cities across North America.

The event was sparked by 1969 police raids of the Stonewall Inn, a gay bar in Greenwich Village, New York. This raid, followed by riots, formed a watershed moment in the modern LGBTQ+ rights movement and became the impetus for organizing pride marches on a much larger public scale.

In the US, President Bill Clinton declared June “Gay & Lesbian Pride Month” in 1999, and Pride Week started to be celebrated in Canada in 1973. Here, it became a national LGBT rights event in several Canadian cities, including Vancouver, Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal, Saskatoon and Winnipeg.

Although Vancouver will hold its annual Pride parade on Aug. 6 this year, June is considered the International Pride Month. To learn more about supporting LGBTQ+ youth, Vol. 11 No. 2 of the Children’s Health Policy Centre Research Quarterly, provides a primer.