Demand for children's mental health help grows amid pandemic
BARRIE, ONT. -- Experts in children's mental health are concerned that the demand for help during the pandemic has increased.
In Barrie, both the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) and Kinark Child and Family Services say clients seek more help to cope with the pandemic.
"It's been a tough year, and people are trying to cope as best they can," says Bob Fehir, the manager of the youth mental health program at CMHA.
"If their pre-COVID functioning was something they were challenged with, then COVID exacerbated their struggles," says Jennifer Coolbear, a psychologist at Kinark Child and Family Services.
According to Coolbear, children tend to have problems adapting to life changes. Over the last year, there has been no shortage of that — whether it be learning remotely, on-and-off-again lockdowns, and not being able to socialize with friends and family.
SickKids hospital recently released data from July 2020 to March 2021 of the number of people using its mental health services.
Over that time, eating disorder admissions increased 55 per cent. Psychiatry admissions went from 159 entries to 248 from the previous year — up 30 per cent.
Emergency department mental health crisis visits went up 25 per cent, and urgent care mental health visits jumped 20 per cent.
For those needing professional help in the Barrie area, the CMHA and Kinark Child and Family Services offer virtual sessions.
"This is just one more tool in our tool bag to keep in touch will clients," notes Fehir.
"We've supported families to ensure that families have the technology to access treatment services. We had a program where we provided families with tablets," adds Coolbear.
Coolbear suggests that if your child struggles with mental health to visit a family doctor or clinic for their feedback on their condition. She says they will provide insight into whether the feelings are typical for children their age or if they require additional support.