Impact of the COVID‑19 pandemic on mental health of children of parents living with mental illness

Uher, Rudolf | $149,816

Nova Scotia Nova Scotia Health Authority 2021 CIHR Operating Grant

Deterioration of mental health may be among the most serious consequences of the COVID‑19 pandemic. Social isolation, lack of opportunities, unemployment and financial uncertainty are known triggers of depression, anxiety and other problems. Those living with pre-existing mental illness and their children may be among the most vulnerable ones to the indirect consequences of the pandemic. The development of children depends on the health of their parents. With intermittent school closures and reduced access to external resources, the wellbeing of children may be linked to the mental health of their parents even more strongly than before. Adolescents and young adults are impacted by the limited opportunities for social interactions, education, and work experience. As Canada emerges from the pandemic, it is imperative to plan services and supports for those who have been impacted. Effective planning depends on reliable information on which segments of the population are affected and what factors mitigate the impact. To provide such information, we will leverage a cohort of over 1000 children and parents from 300 families, including 200 families where one or both parents are living with mental illness. The parents and children provided detailed information on their mental health prior to the pandemic, in 2018-2019. Between May 2020 and June 2021, we recorded pandemic-related exposures, coping and impacts. Between fall 2021 and summer 2022, we will repeat the mental health and functioning assessments using the same measures that were used in previous assessments to find out which children and youth continue to be affected. We will examine how age, sex, gender, race, rural residence, income, parent health, continuity of mental health services, receipt of benefits, activities and coping influence mental health outcomes of children and youth. We team with the provincial government to apply the knowledge in the planning of services for children and youth.

With funding from the Government of Canada

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