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Has COVID-19 affected mental health in BC youth? Study aims to find out.

It has been in use at BC Children’s Hospital pediatric emergency department (PED) since 2015 and implemented in emergency departments across BC.
Myheartsmap
We’ve seen an exponential rise in visits to address mental health concerns, says Dr. Quynh Doan.

How has COVID-19 affected mental health in B.C. youth?

Provincial researchers want young people and their parents help to answer this question. A study of how the COVID-19 pandemic has affected youth mental health in British Columbia is well underway – and researchers want more parents and youth to weigh in.

A research team at BC Children’s Hospital aims to identify the frequency of mental health concerns in children and youth during the COVID-19 pandemic, describe the type and severity of these concerns, and guide families to relevant mental health resources to help with any identified concerns. Parents and youth can help inform mental health resource planning by participating in this study. For this Child and Youth Mental Health During a Pandemic Study, researchers have examined emergency visit numbers for mental health issues for children in B.C. over the past decade.

“We’ve seen an exponential rise in visits to address mental health concerns,” says Dr. Quynh Doan, associate professor of pediatric emergency medicine at the University of British Columbia, to the Dawson Creek Mirror.

“We’ve also seen a high frequency of psychological and social issues in children and youth seeking help for non-mental health-related concerns when we screen for them.” While safety measures such as physical distancing have helped reduce the spread of COVID-19 in B.C., the stress of the COVID-19 pandemic along with the strain related to public health restrictions may have impacted the mental health of children and teens and led to increased anxiety, depression, self-harm and substance use.

Children and youth aged 10-17 in B.C. can complete a self-assessment for The Child and Youth Mental Health During a Pandemic study, and parents of children aged 6-17 can complete an assessment for their kid(s). Participants register, receive a call from a research assistant, and then complete an assessment, which takes about 30 minutes.

Once completed, each participant will receive a report with recommendations on what youth mental health services to access. If the self-assessment triggers any severe and urgent concerns, a study research nurse will check in and help ensure appropriate help is accessible. The last step comes three months later with a short follow-up survey and second self-assessment.

The study uses MyHEARTSMAP, an online self-screening survey for youth mental health, which was created with input from youth and families. MyHEARTSMAP was adapted from HEARTSMAP, an electronic, clinical assessment tool developed at BC Children’s to improve care for children and youth presenting to the emergency department (ED) with a mental health concern.

The tool was designed by the Doan research group and has been in use at BC Children’s Hospital pediatric emergency department (PED) since 2015 and implemented in emergency departments across BC.

Contact the study team at myheartsmap@bcchr.ca with any questions.