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The final discussion topic for our Let’s Talk series is Mental Health and Youth Amid COVID-19. This Zoom forum is part of a series of facilitated online discussion forums that Families Canada has launched during the current COVID-19 pandemic. We will discuss the pandemic’s impact and effects on Canada’s family support sector. Join the conversation to hear challenges other organizations in the family support sector are facing and share promising practices to best serve our families during this time.

Date Aired Live: Friday, May 22nd, 2020
Time: 13:00h ET (Ottawa)

Guest speaker:
Ian Manion, a recently retired clinical psychologist and scientist-practitioner who has worked with children, youth and families for over 35 years. Dr. Manion is co-founder of Youth Net/Réseau Ado, a bilingual community-based mental health promotion program with satellites across Canada.

Stay safe and stay strong!

Families Canada

Discussion Notes:

Youth (aged 13-19) and COVID-19:
• All youth have different styles of communication, strengths, coping skills, access to support networks, and face different challenges such as physical/mental health, inequities, home situations, and even homelessness
• Generally, youth who were already struggling pre-COVID-19 are experiencing additional challenges adapting to the COVID-19 situation
• Reports show youth anxiety is increasing. However, the vast majority of youth say they are coping well
• Youth’s brains are still developing, especially when it comes to processing risk
• Without school, many youths don’t have structure in their lives

Youth are concerned about:
• Other people catching COVID-19 (parents, grandparents, others)
• State of the world: how things are changing; what the new normal is going to look like?
• Sense of loss: rites of passage (graduating high school, going to college/university), plans to travel the world
• Summer jobs, saving for post-secondary education, contributing to their families’ finances
• 75% of youth say they miss school
• Problems at home: parents are under stress, increased conflicts
• Social isolation: some youth rely strongly on their peers

• Accessing health supports:
o Virtual care: some youth aren’t comfortable with virtual care
o Accessing information: there is a lot of information overload and misinformation
o Cyber safety: youth are more vulnerable right now
o Not all youth are comfortable using technology

• Sleep: youth are increasingly using electronics, which can negatively impact sleep

Suggestions:
• When you talk with young people, spend at least 50% of the time listening to them
• Have conversations with youth about reaching out to other youth; they may know who is in need of extra support
• Advise parents to move away from a ‘command and control’ communication style. Co-creation, negotiation, and risk mitigation work better.
• Engage youth to co-create solutions to problems they are facing
Peer support:
• Peer support is very important; it can be credible, professional, and effective
• We can bridge youth to important services through peer networks; however, it is important to have clear boundaries on roles and where/when handover to professionals should happen
• Peer support helps people feel like they aren’t alone as they are trying to make change happen

Advice for parents:
• Invite teens to have a conversation
• Communicate that teens are making decisions for themselves as well as others
• Talk about what their friends are doing to protect themselves
• Pick the right time to have a conversation on safety; the right time is not when your teen is heading out the door

Self-care for front-line workers:
• Self-care is important; when you are healthier, you are better able to support yourself and your family
• When you are feeling better, you can return to work
• No one can be a superhero every day

Links:

Children First Canada: Webinar to discuss the impact of COVID-19 on children and youth May 23rd).
https://childrenfirstcanada.org/events/2020/5/23/webinar-with-canadian-minister-of-families

Families Canada: Various COVID-19 related resources https://familiescanada.ca

Jack.org: Covid-19 Youth Mental Health Resource Hub
https://jack.org/Resources/COVID-19-Youth-Mental-Health-Resource-Hub

Parenting for Lifelong Health: Covid-19 24/7 parenting
https://covid19parenting.com/

Voices for Youth: Covid-19 and Youth Mental Health
https://voicesofyouth.org/campaign/covid-19-and-youth-mental-health

WHO: Q and A’s for Adolescents and Youth Related to Covid-19
https://who.int/news-room/q-a-detail/q-a-for-adolescents-and-youth-related-to-covid-19

PREVNet: PREVNet is a national network of leading researchers and organizations, working together to stop bullying in Canada. https://www.prevnet.ca/

Timsle App: An Ottawa-made app helps you build better habits and improve mental health with accountability https://apt613.ca/timsle-mental-health-app/

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