Lessening the Impact of COVID‑19 on Child and Youth Mental Health
There is growing evidence that the pandemic and measures meant to curb spread of the virus, such as school closures and mask mandates, had repercussions on the mental health of children and adolescents. However, the pandemic’s impact on youth mental health remains unclear. Children are underrepresented in research, and most studies are based on self-reported symptoms of depression, anxiety, and stress. This project will determine how the pandemic affected major youth mental health problems in Quebec, including suicide attempt, drug overdose, eating disorders, and injuries due to child maltreatment. We will identify whether policies and practices such as curfews during the pandemic had an impact on these outcomes. We will also identify specific subgroups of children and adolescents that were more vulnerable during the pandemic. To carry out this work, we will analyze all hospitalizations in children and adolescents under 20 years of age in Quebec, Canada before and during the pandemic. We will study suicide attempt, drug overdose, alcohol intoxication, eating disorders, and home injuries due to maltreatment. We will assess whether pandemic control measures, socioeconomic conditions, chronic diseases, and other characteristics of children influenced the pandemic’s impact on youth mental health. This project will measure the impact of COVID‑19 on understudied mental health problems in children and adolescents, and will identify vulnerable groups in need of support during pandemic recovery and future public health crises. Quebec was the most severely affected province at the start of the pandemic. Quebec’s experience can provide invaluable information to provinces that were less heavily affected or affected later in the pandemic. The findings will be disseminated to health authorities, policymakers, and healthcare professionals to guide priority setting and interventions for pandemic control in all of Canada.