The COVID‑19 pandemic and its longitudinal associations with youth’s mental health: Examining risk and protective factors
In response to the ongoing COVID‑19 pandemic, the Canadian government implemented several restrictive measures since March 2020 to decrease social contacts and increase physical distance. Although these measures were necessary to limit the transmission of the virus, there are reasons to be concerned about their impact on the adolescents, who are probably the group with the greatest need to socialize with their peers. In fact, it may have been more difficult for adolescents during the pandemic to have their first romantic relationships, to be involved in schools or get a job. Some youth may be even more vulnerable to the effects of the pandemic, namely, those having experienced prior adverse life events such as child maltreatment or bullying, and adolescents belonging to a sexual and gender minority (LGBTQ2+). Indeed, independent of the pandemic, these two groups tend to experience greater rates of stigma, social isolation, and mental health issues compared to their non-victimized, non-minoritized peers. Moreover, as the pandemic deprived them of the majority of extra-familial supports and/or programs, it may have been more difficult for these adolescents to cope. The proposed research will examine the effects of child maltreatment and bullying on youth’s mental health in the aftermath of the pandemic (e.g., COVID-related stress, post-traumatic stress symptoms, anxiety/depression, alcohol and drug) and the impacts of support and extra-curricular activities on their well-being. We will also examine these outcomes among sexual and gender minority youth. This study will document the progression of mental health among 3,900 adolescents, before (school year 2019-2020), during (school year 2020-2021) and after (school year 2021-2022, present proposal) the COVID‑19 pandemic. Findings will inform the development of targeted interventions to better help adolescents, and high-risk groups therein, as well as mitigate the long-term impacts of this unique global challenge.