More children needing mental health support during COVID-19: CHEO
OTTAWA -- With widespread COVID-19 vaccinations potentially still months away, the light at the end of the tunnel seems to be far in the distance.
The pandemic is having an serious impact on everyone’s mental health, including children.
“We’re seeing about a 30-40 percent increase in those who are contacting mental health crisis services,” says Joanne Lowe, Executive Director of the Youth Services Bureau of Ottawa, and vice-president of mental health and addiction services at CHEO.
“A lot more people are asking for help. When they are asking help, it’s more complicated than it might have been outside of the pandemic.”
Among young people considering suicide, that number is even higher, says Lowe.
“We’re seeing a doubling of the calls that are young people calling or their family is calling because they’re worried about suicide.”
She says that a disruption in routine is one of the causes.
"We’re in winter, so there’s a greater sense of isolation, kids don’t have the same pro-social kinds of recreational activities such as teams.”
Children count on activities and social interaction for peer-to-peer support. Combine that with the latest round of learning from home, and it adds up.
“It’s been a long stretch, it’s been a marathon; people are tired, they feel hopelessness”” says Elyse Schipper of PLEO, adding that schools being closed is tough for parents as well.
“If that’s something you’re feeling as a parent too, then it makes sense that your kids might be feeling it,” says Schipper.
PLEO is a parents’ support group, and they’re urging parents who think a child is struggling to reach out.
“Parents can trust their gut; they know their kids best.”
Schipper says to look out for changes in your child’s behaviour: “For sure if you’re concerned about your kids’ safety or your safety, you definitely want to reach out and get help.”
And kids have been calling. Kids Help Phone tells CTV News Ottawa that since schools closed on Dec. 18, ithas handled more than double the call volume compared to the same period last year from young people through text and phone.
Organizations and support groups are ready to help you or your child, “We would always encourage for people to get the help they need, regardless whether we’re in a pandemic or not,” says Lowe.
The Youth Services Crisis Line is a 24/7 service. More information can be found here.