The past year has been anything but normal for children and youth. COVID-19 has impacted almost every aspect of their lives – from home life, to school and learning, to interactions with friends and family.
This is inevitably affecting the mental health of many children and youth – more so than parents may realize. The Raising Canada 2020 study (PDF, 2.7 MB), which Alberta researchers were an integral part of developing, reports that youth aged 12 to 17 and their parents often (about half the time) do not perceive the youth’s mental health the same way. In instances when perceptions differed, 65% of youth rated their mental health less positively than their parents did.
Parents, caregivers, or other adults play and important role in the lives of children and youth, but it can be difficult to broach the subject of mental health and wellbeing. Learn the Be There Basics of how to recognize when someone is struggling and tips on how to start the conversation.
There are also a number of mental health supports available to children and youth so that they can access help when they need to.
The Alberta COVID-19 Youth Mental Health Resource Hub is one such support. A partnership between jack.org and Kids Help Phone, with financial support from the provincial government, the hub is a place where youth can access resources that can help them look out for their own mental health, as well as that of their friends and loved ones.
Another important support available to all children and youth in the province is Kids Help Phone. Kids can call or text to connect with a professional counsellor 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The service is also confidential and anonymous, which can be very important to a person’s comfort level when talking about sensitive issues. Hundreds of young people from around Canada call or text Kids Help Phone every day, and the majority report feeling better after reaching out. In Alberta, 39% of texts are about anxiety or stress, followed closely by relationships and depression – 41% of calls discuss mental and emotional health.
For young people with cell phones, Kickstand offers the MoreGoodDays text messaging service. This service offers daily inspiration and advice via text to boost mental health – this program is similar to AHS’s Text4Hope, but geared specifically to young people. Young people can get started by texting “MoreGoodDays” to 393939.
Please share these and other helpful resources you are aware of with the people in your life so that we can ensure children and youth are getting the support they need.
Jason Luan served as the Associate Minister of Mental Health and Addictions from April 30, 2019 to July 7, 2021.