A CAMH survey conducted after the COVID-19 pandemic began has found that young people perceive their mental health to have deteriorated.
The survey was completed by over 600 young people from across Ontario ages 14–27. It included youth who had sought mental health services from the past, and young people who were recruited directly from the community. At the time of the survey in April, 39 per cent of the youth from the community reported significant problems with mood and anxiety. For those drawn from the group of youth who previously sought mental health support, the figure jumped to 68 per cent.
“I am concerned that we have a vulnerable group of young people who are reporting significant impacts from COVID and are reporting unmet mental health needs,” said Dr. Joanna Henderson, Director, Margaret and Wallace McCain Centre for Child, Youth & Family Mental Health; Implementation Director, Cundill Centre for Child and Youth Depression; and Senior Scientist in the Child, Youth and Emerging Adult Program. “We are going to need to respond as a system with new ways of thinking about how to connect with young people, including making sure the voices of youth are part of the solution.”
The survey results also showed that 50 per cent of young people drawn from the group who previously sought help for mental health concerns reported that their access to care since the pandemic began has been disrupted. The authors, which included youth co-researchers, make several recommendations as a result of the survey, including enhanced access to remote counselling.
“During these unprecedented and anxiety producing times, it's critically important that youth have access to the mental health care they need. Accessing services should come with the least barriers possible, so services should be online, free, and readily available at all times of the day, said Em Hayes, Youth Facilitator at CAMH. “Service providers should highlight what types of services are available and when on their websites, making it easy for youth to navigate which agencies are offering what and at what time. Youth are also looking for ideas and ways to keep well during the pandemic. For me, these include journaling, fostering my hobby of creative writing, and exercising daily”.
CAMH has developed an online mental health portal with tips, coping strategies and resources for the public, including this resource to help youth cope during the pandemic.