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Approaches to promote improved mental health among youth

This research seeks to find an approach that stands out in terms of its positive impact on children's mental health. This program could offer solutions in a pandemic and post-pandemic context.

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The Foundation of Stars is privileged to regularly come into contact with scientific researchers in numerous fields. Over the next few months, we will help you discover novel and exciting studies targeting various areas of pediatric research, all of them presented in layman’s terms, to help you learn more about the latest advances in the world of science. The month of March is dedicated to the mental health of children and adolescents!

-- In a non-COVID context, 25% of children in primary school suffer from mental health issues. Recent reports illustrate, however, that the COVID-19 pandemic has been responsible for a significant increase in symptoms of anxiety and depression among youth. These particular issues have major repercussions, including a rise in the number of behavioural issues, a drop in the degree of academic motivation and an increase in the number of youngsters dropping out of school. The need to introduce approaches to promote improved mental health among youth is obvious. We estimate that the effects of the pandemic will continue to be felt until at least 2021-2022. In addition, children and youth are harmed by the duration of the pandemic and its measures, which in the best case scenario, will have lasted well over a year. It’s extremely likely that the harmful effects on the mental health of children and adolescents will prevail long after the quarantine measures are lifted and life has regained a semblance of normality.
Experts in the area of juvenile mental health (pediatric psychologists) are increasingly concerned with the “post-pandemic” reality for youth, and how they can be best be supported throughout this period. It is now understood that children have been coping with constant stress since March 2020. This mental weariness was accentuated by numerous frustrations and worries - big and small, as well as unhealthy dollops of fear and sadness. And the truth of the matter is that the effects of the past year will not immediately or quickly vanish once a semblance of normality appears on the horizon. The incessant psychological distress from various sources that our children have been subjected to constitutes a real risk that they will fall prey to severe exhaustion in the near future. Mental and public health experts now fear that we are on the cusp of a public mental health crisis. The first signs of this are already appearing. We must therefore be ready to step up and to develop and introduce measures in response to these adverse effects. The research currently being conducted by Prof. Catherine Malboeuf-Hurtubise, psychologist affiliated with Bishop’s University and the CHUS research centre, seeks to find ways of helping children and adolescents better cope with the negative fall-out of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Study findings are thus far promising, with three separate measures identified as potentially useful for countering the psychological distress and improving the well-being of children: a meaningful presence, a child-focused philosophy and art-therapy.

Prof. Catherine Malboeuf-Hurtubise’s research rests on a comparison of the success of various clinical interventions - online and in the classroom - in terms of improving the mental health of primary students both during and after the pandemic.

  • Project 1: Evaluation and comparison of art-therapy interventions and measures revolving around a meaningful presence on the mental health of primary children during the COVID-19 pandemic. Researchers will make use of works by children’s author Élise Gravel to promote exchanges focused on emotions and feelings.

  • Project 2: A child-focused philosophy and meaningful presence during the COVID-19 pandemic: a comparison of the impacts of these measures on the mental health of primary students. Philosophy workshops for children will be held and various philosophical issues will be explored with the students, using short videos, stories or comic strips. Specific themes for the interventions were chosen based on their relation to psychology and the pandemic. These topics, among them “Why do we go to school?”, “Freedom and rules”, “Growing old”, “Sadness and fear” and “Death”, were used to fuel discussions. The goal was to generate ideas for interventions that could help large numbers of children cope with the fallout from the pandemic. This program could help reduce the short- medium and long-term mental health risks for primary students and in so doing, promote academic perseverance and success.