Impact of the COVID‑19 pandemic on Canadians living with mental illness, and their children

Uher, Rudolf | $330,085

Nova Scotia Nova Scotia Health Authority 2020 CIHR Operating Grant

Deterioration of mental health may be the most serious consequence of the COVID‑19 pandemic. Social isolation, reduced activity, lack of opportunities, unemployment and financial uncertainty are known triggers of depressive episodes and suicides. Those living with pre-existing mental illness, and their children, may be among the most vulnerable to the indirect consequences of the pandemic. The healthy development of children depends on the health of their parents and children of parents with serious forms of mental illness are at increased risk of adverse outcomes. Now, with closed schools and reduced access to external resources, the wellbeing of children may be linked to the mental health of their parents even more tightly than before. To find out what is harmful and helpful for individuals and families, we will examine the exposure, coping and impact of the COVID‑19 pandemic in over 1000 adults and children from 300 families, including 200 families where one or both parents are living with mental illness. We will monitor the course of the parent mental illness, and track the development of mental health in their children. We will examine strategies that may protect against ill consequences, such as active ways of coping, regular sleep and uninterrupted receipt of health services. We will map functional outcomes such as the achievement of milestones in children and record both positive and adverse outcomes, including suicide attempts. We will use this new knowledge to inform public health strategies and mental health service provision and make them sensitive to the needs of families, including those where parents are living with mental illness.

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