A recent study published in JAMA Pediatrics has found that the mental health of children and adolescents has deteriorated during the COVID-19 pandemic. The study synthesized 53 studies involving 40,807 children and adolescents from 12 countries and found a notable increase in depression symptoms during the pandemic when compared to before. Girls were found to be more negatively impacted than boys, which is consistent with other recent studies. The study also found that youth living in high-income families showed greater increases in depression compared to youth from low-income families.
The study's authors argue that mental health services for children and adolescents need to be prioritized, especially given the clinical service gap that existed before the pandemic. Before the pandemic, 1 in 5 youth had significant mental health issues in Canada, and only 1 in 3 received the services they needed. Despite the growing mental health problem during the pandemic, the federal mental health transfer was cancelled, and the new funding for mental health includes indicators that are not child-specific. The authors urge decision-makers to direct funding for child and adolescent mental health research and services.
The study's findings highlight the urgent need to act swiftly and bolster resources, supports, and accessibility to mental health services. The mental health of youth in Canada needs to be prioritized to avoid a disaster that will have a ripple effect on generations to come. The authors suggest raising awareness about this pernicious problem until it is addressed in earnest.