Youth mental health and substance use in the context of COVID-19: A rapid response multi-component program of youth-engaged research and action
There is minimal research on mental health and substance use (MHSU) among youth during pandemics, limiting our ability to meet the needs of youth. COVID‑19 presents a time-sensitive opportunity to rapidly enhance knowledge about the impacts of a public health crisis on MHSU among youth, reduce negative impacts and amplify coping strategies, and improve readiness to respond to future pandemics. This project addresses these challenges in four ways. 1) A survey will be conducted to rapidly understand how COVID‑19 is affecting youth MHSU over time, how youth are coping, what challenges they have overcome, and what public health response strategies they recommend. We have already surveyed 622 youth and produced preliminary results; funding will enable us to track the experience of these youth for a year. 2) We will conduct interviews with youth over 9 months to further understand impacts over time. 3) Based on each wave of findings, we will partner with our Youth Engagement Initiative to develop innovative materials and interventions to address expressed youth needs. 4) We will conduct participatory action research summits in Ontario and British Columbia to mobilize the perspectives and voices of youth with MHSU concerns to examine youth-designed pandemic response materials, plan for future pandemic responses, and collect any further insights about the pandemic’s impacts. This rapid-response study provides high-quality, real-time evidence to support the management of youth MHSU impacts of COVID‑19 via a patient-oriented research approach. By collecting and immediately responding to youths’ recommendations regarding the clinical, health, and public health responses that would be most meaningful to them, this study will inform MHSU pandemic decision-making and planning within Canada.