by Monique Kasonga
Image Source: Robert Lang
With the one year anniversary of COVID-19’s arrival to Canada just around the corner, most Canadians are able to say how much their lives have drastically changed during this past year. Back in March, when most of the country found itself in quarantine, many of Canada’s youth experienced extra stress surrounding school, finance and future plans in general. A recent study conducted by CTV news came to the conclusion that two in five Canadians said that their mental health has deteriorated since the start of the pandemic. In the UK British Medical Journal, a group of leading public health specialists warned the public that “the mental health impact of the pandemic is likely to last much longer than the physical health impact.” This message is to be taken seriously, as an entire demographic of youth will suffer.
For many youth, familiarity and routine is crucial to success. Becoming accustomed to a particular schedule can help reduce stress, increase independence, and foster healthy habits that will help them as they grow into adulthood. The results of this lack of routine during this past year are not yet known, but are also not looking positive. Social interaction is also crucial for our brain development as well as for our learning. Studies show that interaction within schools effectively assists students in organizing their thoughts, reflecting on the material they are being taught, and furthering their reasoning skills. This lack of social interaction as well as constant health and safety reminders can lead an increase in social anxiety and germaphobia-based obsessive compulsive behaviours. With the provinces and territories returning to school, hopefully this will establish some sort of normalcy and routine for students.
With constant reminders on what to do, what to wear, and how to act during these times, anxiety can easily be heightened for many vulnerable youth. With the influence of the media and people such as the WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesu, who claims that“There will be no return to the ‘old normal’ for the foreseeable future”, this can easily be the cause for panic within youth populations who have never experienced rapid and sizeable change in their lives.
After physical injuries, mental health disorders in youth is the second highest reason for hospitalization in Canada. With the rise of COVID-19 cases, many people are avoiding hospitals and putting other needs on hold in hopes to avoid contracting the virus. But with Canada’s youth suicide rate the third highest in the industrialized world, is this really the best idea?
Overall, the year of 2020 will not be forgotten and the results will persists for many years to come as today’s youth will suffer the worst psychological consequences. Fortunately, many organizations have began committed to creating helplines for people affected mentally by the pandemic. The Canadian government has also invested 10.2 million dollars in COVID-19 mental health and substance use research. They hope to develop evidence so that Canadians who need access to mental health and substance use services are able to receive them and, their findings will be used to inform policy and practice to respond to this evolving crisis. They have additionally introduced Wellness Together Canada which offers different tools and support to those who do not have access to them. Having these resources available for vulnerable groups such our Canadian youth can be extremely beneficial. Nevertheless, youth must be reminded to take care of themselves and their bodies in these times of isolation and to create a sense of stability for themselves to maintain order and routine in their lives.
We, as a country, are working together to fight COVID-19. However, we must not forget that the youth will be the ones here the longest after this virus and the ones to bear the long lasting results.
The following is a resource that has many helplines for those struggling during these times: https://covid19central.ca/for-the-public/helplines/