Supporting Children — By Supporting Practitioners and Families During COVID-19 and Beyond

June 26, 2020

Schwartz C, Yung D, Barican J, Gray-Grant D, Waddell C. Supporting Children — By Supporting Practitioners and Families During COVID-19 and Beyond. Rapid Research Review on Effective Approaches for Reducing Childhood Anxiety. Vancouver, BC: Children’s Health Policy Centre, Simon Fraser University, 2020.

Executive Summary

The COVID-19 public health crisis has introduced new and urgent mental health challenges for children across British Columbia. Among these challenges, this rapid research review addresses childhood anxiety because anxiety disorders are the most common childhood mental disorders. Problematic childhood anxiety may also increase during the COVID-19 pandemic and in its aftermath. Acknowledging needed changes in service delivery, we specifically address anxiety interventions that practitioners can provide virtually and that children and families can access using self-directed delivery. Findings are as follows, based on recent systematic reviews of randomized controlled trials conducted in children.

For virtual delivery:

  • Cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT) is the most effective psychosocial intervention for preventing and treating childhood anxiety and can be readily adapted for virtual delivery (adaptation details and resources for practitioners are described below).
  • Fluoxetine is an effective medication for treating childhood anxiety when CBT has not succeeded; it has fewer troubling side effects than other medications and can be prescribed and monitored virtually.

For self-directed delivery:

  • Three CBT interventions were effective: MoodGYM for preventing childhood anxiety; and Turnaround and Helping Your Anxious Child for treating childhood anxiety.

COVID-19 has caused significant disruptions in the lives of all children and families in BC — and is affecting some children and families disproportionately. Yet our findings suggest that there are pathways to reducing childhood anxiety during the COVID-19 pandemic, and beyond.

Full report