Adjusting Mental Health Services: Insights from the Voices of Transitional-Aged Youth
The COVID‑19 pandemic has had far-reaching impacts on our lives. Many reports indicate that this global crisis has been associated with a plethora of adverse mental health outcomes. Research also suggests that some demographic groups have been disproportionately affected by these recent events, including experiences of race-based violence and xenophobia. Another area of relevant concern is the extent to which the pandemic may be impacting transitional-aged youth development and what may be done to reduce potential associated harms. Even before the pandemic, transitional-aged youth (aged 18-24)—particularly those with marginalized identities—experienced access barriers to formal mental health services. The importance of this concern is evident as the pandemic has had a significant impact on the mental health of transitional-aged youth, which may amplify access barriers and influence attitudes toward help-seeking. Indeed, this is a pressing concern that mental health service providers, such as Hôtel-Dieu Grace Healthcare (HDGH), are actively seeking to address. It stands to reason that mental health services may be fortified with a contextualized understanding of transitional-aged youth’s responses to trauma and adverse experiences during pandemic interruptions and events. Arguably, research investigating the impact of factors related to COVID‑19 on transitional-aged youth mental health will continue to be valuable as society transitions back to something resemblant of pre-pandemic functioning. This assumption is supported by research that predicts long-lasting COVID‑19 impacts. It is from this stance that this project derives its purpose.
This proposed project will examine how the already demanding social adjustments between adolescence to young adulthood may be exacerbated by complications related to COVID-19. This proposed mixed-method study aims to strengthen existing knowledge pertinent to transitional-aged youth mental health, trauma, help-seeking behaviours, health equity initiatives, and strategies to challenge illness-related stigma. The overarching goal of this project is to gain a deeper understanding of how transitional-aged youth are coping and navigating through an already turbulent developmental period during and following a time of global crisis. Specifically, project contributions are planned to inform coordinated mental health outreach for a traditionally hard-to-engage target population and offer guidance to local and global mental health experts and systems for tailoring services to meet the needs of transitional-aged youth. Moreover, contributions are expected to be beneficial for adapting mental health support service efforts during future public health emergency responses.
TEAM & CONTRIBUTIONS:
This research will be conducted by a registered school, clinical, and counselling psychologist (applicant Dr. Jaber), four students, and a knowledge user from the partner organization (applicant Dr. Voth). Appointed as Lead Agency by the Ministry of Child and Youth Services, our partner, HDGH, is responsible for planning the effective delivery of core, community-based child and youth mental health services in Windsor-Essex, Ontario. Partnering with HDGH presents a unique advantage to the potential impact this research may have on the transitional-aged youth in the community. Through connections at the HDGH, this project will have access to recruiting transitional-aged youth accessing mental health services in the region. Findings will contribute to the recent and growing literature specific to transitional-aged youth’s mental health, trauma, help-seeking behaviours, health equity initiatives, and strategies to challenge illness-related stigma within the context of COVID-19.