St. Catharines, ON, August 11, 2022 — The pandemic has sparked a troubling trend of declining mental health among kids, and the newly released Well-Being of Ontario Students Report by CAMH shows that a majority of students (59%), feel depressed about the future because of Covid-19 and over one third of students (39%), cited the pandemic as having negatively impacted their mental health either “very much” or “extremely.”  No doubt caused in part by feelings of isolation and academic anxiety born of Ontario’s sustained flip-flop between in-person and online learning over the past two years , all of these feelings, compounded by the regular back-to-school jitters, can make this September feel especially intimidating for some kids. But Pathstone Mental Health is ready with an arsenal of mental health resources to help children, youth and their families prepare themselves for the school year ahead.
Pathstone Mental Health operates treatment programs, a crisis and support line, video counseling and nine walk-in clinics for children 18 years old and under in the Niagara Region. The not-for-profit is branching out in an effort to support the high demand for mental health services that is being felt across the province, especially with school-age children. Pathstone feels all kids and families, no matter where they live can use the tools they provide. During the past year they have seen 10,045 kids which is a whopping 40% increase since before the pandemic, with an unprecedented 550 plus kids on the waitlist for programs. And the demand for kids’ mental health services isn’t expected to go away anytime soon according to Erin Clayton, RSW and RP, Clinical Manager of Outreach Services, Youth Justice and High-Risk Therapist at Pathstone.
“1 in every 5 children will experience a mental health struggle but that statistic is expected to increase to 1 in every 4 children as a result of the pressures caused by the pandemic,” explains Clayton. “Because the start of a new school year, specifically, can be extra tough for kids who already suffer from mental health issues, we put together a “prep kit” full of tips to try and help as many kids and their families with the transition as possible.”
Pathstone’s tips on how to help kids get the 2022/23 school year off to a healthy start:
Expand Their Social Circle
Particularly important if your kids haven’t been interacting as much with others face-to-face, a few scheduled play dates or even just hanging out in public places where they’re bound to run into other kids, can go a long way in helping them catch up on that social development they’ve missed out on.
Reduce Screen Time
Kids’ screen time necessarily increased exponentially during the pandemic as a means of maintaining connections with friends and family (not to mention attending class!), but it’s time to reign it in, Clayton explains. According to the Well-Being of Ontario Students Report, almost one third of the 91% of children in grades seven through 12 who are on social media, are on it five or more hours a day. She recommends swapping out screens for in-person activities like outdoor play, baking or board games instead.
Improve Their Focus
If you’ve successfully convinced your teen or pre-teen to play a game, choose one that will build on their executive functioning skills like concentration, planning, memory and even team building. Exercising these skills will help your child fall into step at school more easily.
Establish a Healthy Sleep Routine
Getting to bed earlier and at around the same time every night leading up to the big day will help make the transition back to class easier.
Help Them Visualize the School Day
Talking to your child about the friends they’ll see and the teacher they’ll have can also help with the adjustment.
Have Some Fun!
Picking out a new backpack and school supplies can help replace some of the negativity surrounding school with positive energy and excitement.
Manage Your Own Emotions
“About 65% of our temperament is genetic”, explains Clayton. “Parents play a huge role in their child’s anxiety both biologically and environmentally, so it’s important to manage your own emotions around them. If you set a positive tone about going back to school, they’ll pick up on that.”
If you’re a parent who wants to measure your own readiness to identify and support your child’s mental health struggles this school year, visit pathstonementalhealth.ca/backtoschool to take a short quiz and find next-step resources.
If you suspect your child is struggling with their mental health, reach out to Pathstone. Their Crisis & Support line operates 24/7 at 1-800-263-4944 and their in-person mental health walk-in clinics are for youth 18 and under, as well as parents and caregivers who have questions about how to best support their kids. For locations and hours of operation, visit www.pathstonementalhealth.ca/walk-in-clinic.
About Pathstone Mental Health
Pathstone Mental Health is a community-based organization whose mission it is to provide innovative and effective treatment for all children in Niagara struggling with mental health issues. Thanks to support from our donors and volunteers, we are able to address and meet the needs of more children and their families. As the primary provider of mental health services for children in Niagara, we are also a lead agency for the province of Ontario. Note, Crisis Services are offered 24/7 by calling 1-800-263-4944.
For more information, to schedule an interview with Erin Clayton, or for high-resolution photography, please contact The PR Department at 416-535-3939. Email: [email protected]