Did You Know?

Some young people face lower risk of problematic substance use

June 29, 2021

Not all young people face equal risks when it comes to problematic substance use, and there are a variety of protective factors reducing their risk. In the US, for example, when low-income families received annual income supplements, children from these families had fewer alcohol and cannabis problems, compared with children from families not receiving income supplements. Surveys have also found that when parents provided high levels of supervision and conveyed the importance of not using substances, children were less likely to use substances. Also, youth who felt strongly connected to and supported by their families and who had meaningful opportunities for family participation were less likely to engage in problematic substance use. Additionally, some individual characteristics are also protective. Youth with strong principles, such as valuing being honest even if it leads to punishment, were less likely to misuse alcohol or cannabis. Further, youth with high self-esteem were less likely to use cannabis or cocaine or to engage in binge drinking. For more information, see Vol. 13, No. 4 of the Children’s Mental Health Research Quarterly

National Indigenous Peoples Day in Canada takes place June 21

June 21, 2021

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 people. During a recent inaugural Child Research Day, sponsored by SFU’s Faculty of Health Sciences, Children’s Health Policy Centre director Charlotte Waddell emphasized how the legacies of colonialism are still affecting Indigenous peoples, despite their great resilience. COVID-19 is just one recent example when issues such as unsafe housing, lack of access to clean water and food insecurity all put Indigenous children at increased risk. For more information on the impact of COVID-19 on children’s mental health, and a description of how Indigenous children may be particularly disadvantaged, see a recent report to the BC Representative for Children and Youth.

Celebrate International Pride Month for LGBTQ+

June 14, 2021

June is International LGBTQ+ Pride Month, marked annually to recall the 1969 Stonewall riots. In British Columbia, celebrations typically culminate in August with the annual Gay pride parade, this year being held Aug. 2 in a virtual format, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Children’s Health Policy Centre has found that many schools in North America are already implementing practices and policies to help LGBTQ+ youth have better experiences. These often include supporting gay-straight alliances, training staff and implementing policies against homophobic-bullying — initiatives that can have both immediate and long-term benefits. For more information, see Vol. 11, No. 2 of the Children’s Mental Health Research Quarterly.



Addressing the causes of self-harm

June 7, 2021

Self-harm in young people can be prevented by addressing the situations or conditions that give rise to it. First, child maltreatment can be prevented by addressing parenting challenges. Then, depression, anxiety and substance misuse in young people can be prevented with a variety of interventions. Beyond this, steps can be taken to address the socio-economic inequities that are also correlated with youth self-harm, for example, through income redistribution programs. For more information, see Vol. 13, No. 3 of the Children’s Mental Health Research Quarterly.

Team say thank-you to families

May 31, 2021

The art of saying “thank you” may be more usually associated with social interactions but for Nicole Catherine and her colleagues with the BC Healthy Connections Project, it’s an important part of science as well.

Catherine and senior research coordinators Katie Hjertaas and Ange Cullen are soon to begin contacting all 739 participants in the multi-year study to let them know what an extraordinary contribution they have made.

The scientific study is examining whether an intensive nurse home-visiting program for young first-time moms can improve child health and development. Pregnant girls and young women living across four regional BC Health Authorities generously agreed to participate in six research interviews during pregnancy and through until their child’s second birthday. In total, families contributed to an impressive total of 4,000 research interviews involving eight million data points on mothers’ life experiences and the experiences of their children.

Their voices, as heard through the survey data, are informing new policies and efforts to support similar girls and young women and their children. “They demonstrated strength and resilience in connecting with public health early in their pregnancy, and in agreeing to participate in a long-term research study,” Catherine says. “What’s even more remarkable is that they did this while coping with other issues in their lives,” she added. Some 91% of participants were preparing to parent while single and 49% were adolescents.

In making this outreach, the study team will share some positive prenatal findings and let families know that they will be contacted in the near future to be invited to participate in a longer-term follow up across childhood and adolescence.

Recent news from a similar study in England has shown positive results in a follow-up study conducted when children were age 7. Children of nurse-visited mothers in that country showed better school readiness at age 5 and better reading achievement at age 7.

BC proclaims first anti-racism week

May 26, 2021

BC is proclaiming May 23 to 29, 2021, as Anti-Racism Awareness Week – a chance for British Columbians to celebrate and learn about B.C.’s diverse culture, reflect on biases and stand together against racism.

“We stand alongside every person who has faced, or continues to face, racism in our province,” said Attorney General David Eby. “This week is a chance for all British Columbians to think about how we can be anti-racist, challenge our own biases and build a stronger province on a foundation of diversity and mutual respect.”

The dates were chosen because the anniversaries of the Komagata Maru, the murder of George Floyd and Asian Heritage Month are all this week.

Co-incidentally, the next issue of the Children Health Policy Centre’s Quarterly publication will focus on the topic of anti-racism interventions. It is scheduled to be released July 21/21.

Ongoing support may be needed to reduce self-harm

May 24, 2021

For some young people, self-harming behaviours may come to an end when treatment does. For others, however, these behaviours may re-emerge in the future. It may be helpful for practitioners to reconnect with youth after treatment ends to determine whether follow-up support is needed. For more information, see Vol. 13, No. 3 of the Children’s Mental Health Research Quarterly.

Three effective interventions can reduce self-harm

May 17, 2021

There are three effective interventions for reducing self-harm in young people: Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT) and Mentalization-Based Treatment (MBT) as stand-alone programs, and Resourceful Adolescent Parent Program (RAP-P) as a supplementary program. For communities that have yet to adopt programs for youth who self-harm, DBT may be a particularly helpful place to start. But if effective treatments are already on offer, it may be helpful to supplement them with RAP-P. For more information, see Vol. 13, No. 3 of the Children’s Mental Health Research Quarterly.

Risks of youth self-harm are identifiable

May 10, 2021

Self-harm in young people has been correlated with a number of situations or conditions. Being female is a particularly strong correlate. In one systematic review, girls were noted to be 1.7 times more likely than boys to harm themselves. Another survey has found even more pronounced gender differences, with girls harming themselves at triple the rate of boys (24% vs. 8%). Other correlates of youth self-harm include:

  • low socio-economic status,
  • parenting problems,
  • adverse childhood experiences (including child maltreatment),
  • exposure to others harming themselves,
  • concerns about sexual orientation,
  • limited problem-solving skills, and
  • mental health problems (including depression, anxiety and substance misuse).

In particular, researchers have found that being victimized is a particularly strong risk factor for self-harm — including being maltreated by parents, peers or siblings, and being a victim of cyberbullying or a crime. For more information, see Vol. 13, No. 3 of the Children’s Mental Health Research Quarterly.

National mental health week starts May 3

May 3, 2021

May 3 marks the beginning of the 70th Annual Canadian Mental Health week and May 7 is National Child & Youth Mental Health day. The Children’s Health Policy Centre celebrates these important events and reminds all readers that research should be used to assist parents.  Behaviour problems, for example, account for as many as half of all referrals to children’s mental health services. So practitioners need effective approaches for addressing these problems. Parenting programs, such as Incredible Years, have strong evidence of success and should be readily available to families in need. For more information, see Vol. 10, No. 1 of the Children’s Mental Health Research Quarterly.