COVID-19 Effects on Mental Health and Service Provision Effects on Children and Families: The MY LIFE Experience
Children with co-occurring physical and mental illness, or multimorbidity, have poorer quality of life and use more health services. The parents of children with multimorbidity also experience poor mental health. These burdens are likely amplified by the COVID‑19 and subsequent countermeasures to reduce transmission such as school closures, cancelled medical appointments, and physical distancing. Understanding the extent to which COVID‑19 has affected the mental health of these vulnerable children and their families is needed to support these individuals during COVID‑19 and plan for future crises. Further, the advent of virtual mental health care such as video conferencing has given rise to new challenges. Best practices suggest that health care for children should be family-centred, focusing on the needs of the child in the context of their family environment. But, it is unknown if the delivery of virtual health care is perceived by children with multimorbidity and their parents as family-centred and how virtual health care in the era of COVID‑19 impacts mental health. We will engage families already recruited in our ongoing longitudinal study child multimorbidity to investigate the changes in the mental health of children and parents in the time prior to, during, and after COVID‑19 countermeasures; examine if virtual mental health care, in response to COVID-19, is family-centred, and understand child and parent perceptions of health care needs for individual and family mental health. Our study includes 263 families who will complete mail surveys and participate in online qualitative interviews that will ask about mental health care needs in the context of COVID-19. Because our sample of families is already engaged with our research team, we can quickly obtain and summarize research findings that can be used by health professionals, families, and policy makers to allocate resources to best support the mental health of children and their families during COVID-19.