Identifying and responding to children and youth mental health need during the COVID‑19 pandemic: Examination of individual and agency level factors impacting outcomes in Ontario

Stewart, Shannon L | $149,891

Ontario Western University 2021 CIHR Operating Grant

Although children and youth are less likely to be hospitalized by COVID-19, they remain vulnerable to the psychological impacts of the pandemic. Abrupt changes to daily routines of children, various pandemic-related parental stressors, social isolation from friends and extended family members and lack of access to social and structural supports during this time might leave children vulnerable to psychopathology, and parents with fewer resources to meet their children’s needs. Yet, an alarming number of these children and youth did not have their needs adequately met prior to the pandemic. The current study utilizes interRAI data from over 50 participating agencies across Ontario, including over 36,000 child and youth assessments. Researchers will examine the trends and characteristics of children and youth prior to and during the multiple waves of the pandemic, as well as study the impact of services and associated risk factors (e.g., staff shortages, program closures) on changes in mental health and child/youth-level outcomes during the COVID‑19 pandemic, compared to pre-pandemic data. Moreover, child and agency level data will be examined to evaluate mental health outcomes based on sex, gender, and area-based social-economic status, to indicate populations with the greatest mental health decline (i.e. depression, anxiety, behaviour, self-harm) and poorest quality of life indicators (e.g., health, education, relationships). Family and social supports will be evaluated alongside these risks, by determining protective effects such as caregiver involvement, financial assistance, and interpersonal resources. Researchers will engage in knowledge exchange with health system partners, policy makers and national researchers to create a network to share findings that are broadly accessible to health system administrators across the country.

With funding from the Government of Canada

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