Posted on May 4, 2020 by Ellie Yu
The COVID-19 pandemic hasn’t just threatened Canadians’ physical health. It’s impacting mental health as well. According to Infoway research, mental health needs are increasing, with 21 per cent of Canadians reporting fair or poor mental health last year, compared to 17 per cent in 2019.
Canadian children and youth aren’t exempt from the pandemic’s adverse effects on mental health. A study by SickKids found that 70 per cent of children and youth surveyed responded worse mental health during lockdowns in spring 2020. The study also found that stress from social isolation was the greatest risk factor for worsening mental health status among children and youth.
As Canadians continue to stay apart, finding other ways to connect can help protect mental health. Many young people are already very comfortable navigating virtual spaces, and e-mental health tools can be a convenient, accessible way of getting support. In a recent analysis (publication forthcoming) of survey responses from Kids Help Phone text-service users, 96 per cent of respondents agreed that the service was easy to use. As the pandemic continues, they’re also turning to e-mental health tools in greater numbers. As of February 2020, Kids Help Phone’s texting service had 27,585 unique users. By August 2020, that number had increased to 40,428 unique users.
Since the survey was conducted, numbers have increased further. As of March 31, 2021, there have been 199,625 all-time unique users.
COVID-19 has made it more difficult to seek in-person support, but digital tools can help foster connection. Nearly half of survey respondents reported feeling “less overwhelmed” and “less alone” as a result of their conversations with Kids Help Phone. One in three felt “more hopeful.” When asked what they would have done if the service was not available, 40 per cent reported that they would have ignored the issue, and 38 per cent stated they would not have spoken to anyone.
As the Canadian Mental Health Association is highlighting throughout this year’s Mental Health Week, talking openly about how we’re feeling is important for mental health. With Canadians of all ages continuing to feel the stress of the COVID-19 pandemic, e-mental health tools can be a way to reach out, speak up and find support.
You can visit the Wellness Together Canada portal, the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health’s collection of digital mental health tools or Resources Around Me at Kids Help Phone to find more options for mental health support. Learn more about Mental Health Week and follow the hashtag #GetReal on social media to continue the conversation.
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Ellie Yu is a Performance Analyst with Canada Health Infoway where she drives business decisions using data analytics and business intelligence to demonstrate the adoption and benefits of investments in digital health. She holds a Ph.D. in Health Policy from McMaster University.