Did You Know?

Preventure program helps reduce problematic substance use

July 19, 2021

In a systematic review by the Children’s Health Policy Centre of programs aimed at preventing problematic substance use, one program stood out. It was Preventure — showing positive outcomes across two studies with young people who had mental health symptoms. Involving only two 90-minute group sessions delivered in schools, this program reduced not only problems associated with alcohol but also binge drinking and the amounts consumed. The program also reduced the frequency and the number of other substances consumed. As well, youth who had never used substances prior to the program were less likely to try any drugs other than cannabis. For more information, see Vol. 13, No. 4 of the Children’s Mental Health Research Quarterly

Interventions can be adapted to better serve Indigenous people

July 12, 2021

To better serve Indigenous youth, a group of researchers set out to make a substance-use intervention known as The Strengthening Families program more culturally relevant. The program was renamed Bii- Zin-Da-De-Dah (or Listening to One Another to Grow Strong) and was modified and implemented across four culturally-distinct First Nations communities in Canada. Because of the diversity across the communities — located in BC, Manitoba, Ontario and Quebec — each added content consistent with its own traditions, values and needs.

Adaptations included new material on promoting mental health and preventing adolescent suicide, while retaining core program elements. Based on preliminary data, the program was well received, with community members asking to participate and with positive attendance and graduation rates. This project shows that interventions can be meaningfully adapted for Indigenous youth by engaging with their communities.

Some young people face greater risk of problematic substance use

July 5, 2021

Not all young people face equal risks when it comes to problematic substance use. Most risk factors relate to adverse family circumstances, in particular, family socio-economic disadvantage. Children from disadvantaged families face an 80% higher risk of being repeatedly diagnosed with substance use disorders than children from more advantaged families. As well, when children were maltreated, their risk of repeatedly meeting criteria for a substance use disorder was more than 60% higher compared with children who were not maltreated. In addition, when parents had

  • symptoms of antisocial personality disorder
  • substance use disorders themselves or
  • negative relationships with their children

young people were more likely to develop alcohol use disorders. Peers and individual circumstances can also contribute to increased risk. Specifically, having friends with behaviour problems increased young people’s risk for developing an alcohol use disorder. As well, being diagnosed with behaviour disorders, attention-deficit/ hyperactivity disorder or depression increased the risk for developing substance use disorders.

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.