Most of Ontario’s youth suffered from depression during pandemic, early data shows


TORONTO – Preliminary research suggests the COVID-19 crisis is having a sustained and significant impact on the mental health of young people in Ontario.

TORONTO – Preliminary research suggests the COVID-19 crisis is having a sustained and significant impact on the mental health of young people in Ontario.

Researchers at the Toronto Hospital for Sick Children on Thursday released the first results indicating that the majority of children and adolescents saw their mental health decline during the second wave of the pandemic.

The first data, which has not been peer reviewed, shows that more than half of the 758 children between the ages of eight and 12 reported significant symptoms of depression from February to March.

This psychological toll was even more pronounced in adolescents, with 70% of 520 adolescents aged 13 to 18 reporting significant depressive symptoms.

The results are drawn from responses from approximately 1,500 parents and children in Ontario as part of a series of periodic surveys on the mental health of young people during the pandemic.

Dr. Daphne Korczak, principal investigator of the ongoing SickKids-led study, says research shows Ontario’s strict lockdowns, including extended school closures in some areas, have caused serious damage to young people who could have lasting consequences.

“We saw no evidence that children began to improve, adapt or show resilience over the course of a year,” said Korczak, associate scientist in the Neuroscience and Mental Health program. by SickKids.

“We need to have meaningful conversations as our society reopens about how we can put children and their mental health first.”

According to data collected from 1,494 participants, the more time school-aged children spent learning online, the more likely they were to experience symptoms of depression and anxiety.

Korczak said some respondents felt that even when face-to-face classes were in session, “it didn’t look like school” due to socialization restrictions and the cancellation of extracurricular activities.

“Children enjoy school beyond brick and mortar buildings,” she said. “We have to try to run the school as normally as possible if we are to improve children’s mental health.”

SickKids has always advocated for students to be in class throughout the pandemic, with smaller class sizes and localized closures during COVID-19 outbreaks.

Widespread immunization is a key aspect of Ontario’s plan to resume classroom learning in the fall – although full details of the plan have not been released.

The province has promised that all students and education workers will be offered two injections before September.

But it’s not as simple as getting the kids back inside the classroom, Korczak said. To ensure the well-being of children, authorities must also provide support to parents, she said.

Preliminary results showed that families who faced hardships before the pandemic suffered a disproportionate impact on its economic fallout, resulting in higher levels of mental health symptoms for children and caregivers.

Lydia Muyingo, a doctoral student in clinical psychology at Dalhousie University, said preliminary results from SickKids are consistent with the increased demand for services she has observed in her own clinical work.

Canada’s youth mental health crisis predates the pandemic, Muyingo said, so the solution can’t be as simple as “getting back to normal.”

“There’s this narrative that kids are resilient and they can go through anything. And yes, kids are resilient, but they’re also human,” Muyingo said.

“I think these effects of COVID will last longer than when our masks are turned off… because if you have mental health issues as a child, you are at a greater risk of experiencing these issues as an adult.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published on July 8, 2021.

Adina Bresge, The Canadian Press


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