Following the Epidemic Waves: Child and Youth Mental Health Assessments in Ontario Through Multiple Pandemic Waves

TitleFollowing the Epidemic Waves: Child and Youth Mental Health Assessments in Ontario Through Multiple Pandemic Waves
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2021
AuthorsStewart SL, Vasudeva AS, Van Dyke JN, Poss JW
JournalFrontiers in Psychiatry
Date Published2021-November-17
Type of ArticleOriginal Research
ISBN Number1664-0640
KeywordsCOVID-19,Child and youth,Mental Health,interRAI,assessment,Referrals,School closures

Emerging studies across the globe are reporting the impact of COVID-19 and its related virus containment measures, such as school closures and social distancing, on the mental health presentations and service utilization of children and youth during the early stages of lockdowns in their respective countries. However, there remains a need for studies which examine the impact of COVID-19 on children and youth's mental health needs and service utilization across multiple waves of the pandemic. The present study used data from 35,162 interRAI Child and Youth Mental Health (ChYMH) assessments across 53 participating mental health agencies in Ontario, Canada, to assess the mental health presentations and referral trends of children and youth across the first two waves of the COVID-19 pandemic in the province. Wave 1 consisted of data from March to June 2020, with Wave 2 consisting of data from September 2020 to January 2021. Data from each wave were compared to each other and to the equivalent period one year prior. While assessment volumes declined during both pandemic waves, during the second wave, child and youth assessments in low-income neighborhoods declined more than those within high-income neighborhoods. There were changes in family stressors noted in both waves. Notably, the proportion of children exposed to domestic violence and recent parental stressors increased in both waves of the pandemic, whereas there were decreases noted in the proportion of parents expressing feelings of distress, anger, or depression and reporting recent family involvement with child protection services. When comparing the two waves, while depressive symptoms and recent self-injurious attempts were more prevalent in the second wave of the pandemic when compared to the first, a decrease was noted in the prevalence of disruptive/aggressive behaviors and risk of injury to others from Wave 1 to Wave 2. These findings highlight the multifaceted impact of multiple pandemic waves on children and youth's mental health needs and underscore the need for future research into factors impacting children and youth's access to mental health agencies during this time.

Short TitleChild Mental Health During COVID-19