The COVID-19 crisis is triggering a variety of other problems.
Anxiety, depression, even symptoms of post-traumatic stress are growing, especially in the youngest generation.
“These expected increases in children’s mental health come on the backdrop of pre-COVID; very high needs that were not being met,” said Dr. Charlotte Waddell, a psychologist with the Children’s Health Policy Centre at Simon Fraser University.
“Pre COVID-19, we have estimated that approximately 95,000 B.C. children have mental disorders that definitely need treatment, but less than half of those kids get any mental health help.”
Researchers say mental health supports for kids in B.C. have long been over-stretched and underfunded, and now the pandemic is making the need critical.
“We needed to be ramping up quite a while ago. We now need to really ramp up very seriously because the needs are increasing,” said Waddell.
It’s something 2019’s World Beach Volleyball champ Melissa Humana-Paredes, agrees with.
“I think there should be more funding for mental health for sure,” said Humana-Paredes.
“I think we focus a lot on physical health and we don’t put enough emphasis on mental health. And it’s just as, if not more important.”
Humana-Paredes was slated for the Tokyo Olympics, but with the pandemic, that dream disintegrated.
“I struggled a lot with a loss of identity with that loss of structure. Which did bring about some anxiety about who am I? What do I do now?” said Humana-Paredes.
She has a solid team to work with. But others, don’t, and researchers say that should change, specifically, at a young age.
“If you’re able to prevent just one case of a serious mental health problem starting in childhood, over the lifetime you can save $5 million in averted, unnecessary public costs,” said Waddell.
“If we do more prevention we will have fewer kids getting to this stage of needing treatment and even more so, we’ll have fewer adults experiencing preventable mental disorders that are difficult to deal with.”
And the province’s Representative for Children and Youth says by extension, early intervention into children suffering from a mental health problem, would also help alleviate the pressure British Columbia is facing with increasing homelessness and the opioid crisis.
“Every day we’re seeing how the public health crisis’ are unfolding in terms of substance use, mental health and encampments. Adults that are struggling in that way…they have mental health challenges, and they have had them in many cases, for decades,” said Dr. Jennifer Charlesworth, B.C.’s Representative for Children and Youth.
Experts say the mental health disorders children experience are actually treatable and preventable. But as adults, become entrenched and very difficult to treat, becoming a huge drain on public services (hospitals, courts, probation officers etc).
CHEK News reached out to the Ministry of Children and Family Development for comment, and while not specific, say changes may be on the way.
“We are working to implement more supports now, and we remain committed to supporting the mental health of young people, both now and long after the pandemic,” said Katrina Conroy, Minister of Children and Family Development in a statement.