Report suggests interventions for childhood mental disorders

November 23, 2020

Mental health, or social and emotional wellbeing, is crucial for all children. But in BC, high-quality epidemiological studies show that nearly 95,000 children aged four to 18 years— or an estimated 12.7% — will experience mental disorders.

All children with mental disorders require effective treatments, and many additional children would benefit from effective prevention programs. To inform policymakers about how to address these needs, the Children’s Health Policy Centre has prepared a research report for the BC Ministry of Children and Family Development.

This report summarizes the best available research evidence on effective interventions for preventing and treating 12 of the most common mental disorders (or groups of disorders) affecting children. These include:

  1. anxiety disorders
  2. attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
  3. oppositional defiant disorder
  4. conduct disorders
  5. substance use disorders (SUDs)
  6. depression
  7. autism spectrum disorder
  8. obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
  9. bipolar disorder
  10. eating disorders
  11. posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and
  12. schizophrenia

The report identifies effective prevention interventions for eight of these disorders and effective treatments for all 12.

To view the entire report, please see here.


Increased mental health struggles will result from COVID-19

November 12, 2020

COVID-19 will have significant mental health consequences for B.C. children and youth, according to a report authored by the Children’s Health Policy Centre and released Nov. 12/20.

The report concludes that the pandemic creates a critical need for government to invest in B.C.’s over-stretched and underfunded child and youth mental health services system.

Sponsored by the BC Office of the Representative for Children and Youth, the report reviews several studies on mental health outcomes for children and youth after earlier pandemics and natural disasters. This research identifies the mental health challenges children and youth can be expected to experience during and after COVID-19, including anxiety, post-traumatic stress, depression and behavioural problems.

The report indicates that because untreated mental health problems can persist, even extending into adulthood if left untreated, supports for children and youth will significantly reduce future costs.

The report also finds that some children and youth may be disproportionately affected, including those with neuro-diverse needs, pre-existing mental health conditions, youth in foster care and those affected by adversities such as socioeconomic disadvantage and racism. It also finds that COVID-19 may particularly affect Indigenous peoples, who disproportionately experience harms related to colonialism such as unsafe housing, lack of access to clean water and extreme food insecurity – conditions that the report recognizes as putting children’s mental health at risk.

“This report underlines the importance of addressing mental health issues in the early stages,” says Representative for Children and Youth Jennifer Charlesworth. “The data indicates that children do well when their communities have more socioeconomic resources… Clearly, community and family health play significant roles in child and youth mental health, and that is what we need to be supporting.”

Families who were in more precarious economic situations before COVID-19 are now facing many added difficulties, according to Charlotte Waddell, director of the Children’s Health Policy Centre and the lead author of the report.

“We found that children who experience socioeconomic inequalities are much more likely to develop emotional and behavioural concerns,” says Waddell. “The pandemic has the potential to amplify inequalities – in turn putting less advantaged children at even greater risk for mental health concerns.”

The full report may be found here.

Report highlights effective interventions for anxiety

June 26, 2020

The COVID-19 public health crisis has introduced new and urgent mental health challenges for children across British Columbia.

As a result, the BC Representative for Children and Youth, Jennifer Charlesworth,  asked the Children’s Health Policy Centre (CHPC) to prepare a “Rapid Response” report on effective approaches for reducing childhood anxiety.

Published today, the report identifies two interventions that can be delivered by practitioners virtually and three that can be self-administered by children and families themselves.

“We know it is crucial to address anxiety symptoms and disorders early to ensure they don’t persist into adulthood,” Charlesworth said. “Help cannot wait until the pandemic is over.”

Nearly 45,000 children in B.C. were estimated to have anxiety disorders, before COVID-19, according to Charlotte Waddell, director of the CHPC. “Our new report confirms there are many effective ways for practitioners, caregivers and families to prevent and reduce anxiety during these challenging times,” she said.

Read the entire report here.

Scientific team update on BC Healthy Connections Project now available

June 11, 2020

The scientific team guiding the BC Healthy Connections Project has published an update. The project is a randomized controlled trial evaluating the Nurse-Family Partnership program, involving 739 BC-based girls and young women — and their 744 children. The update may be viewed here.

Following last year’s publication of data describing maternal participants and the life conditions they were coping with in early pregnancy, the team is now analyzing initial data on the effectiveness of the nurse-visitation program. A first findings report will soon be released — examining the program’s impact on prenatal substance use. Further findings reports will follow in 2020-2022.

As well, some 27% of project participants identified as Indigenous (including First Nations, Métis or Inuit). The scientific team is collaborating with the First Nations Health Authority to produce publications telling their stories.

The scientific team expects to provide an additional update every quarter until March 2022.