COVID -19 Series: Middle Mental Health & COVID-19
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May 19, 2020
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Mental Health during COVID-19

COVID-19 Impact on Mental Health
The impact on mental health during COVID-19 has been one of the most important topics of discussion on a national as well as a local level. A new study from the non-profit Angus Reid Institute (April, 2020) presented data from a sample of 1912 adults that confirms half of Canadians report a worsening of their mental health.

 Canadians are most likely to say they're worried, anxious, and bored. It is also important to note that 34% of individuals surveyed also said they are "grateful."  The survey also collected data from 650 youth. Not surprisingly, more than half of children aged 10-17 say what they miss most during the shutdown are their friends. Big worries identified were:  missing out on current/next school year, family members getting sick, parents losing their job, as well as getting sick themselves.  
When questioned about the idea of returning to school 36% said they're looking forward to it, 38% felt okay about the idea, and 26% said they were not looking forward to a return.

 As a school community, we are here to support students and families in navigating these unprecedented times, now and going forward as we plan for next steps.
"Mental health is the emotional, cognitive, and behaviour capacity to successfully address existential challenges and opportunities. It is not about feeling good. Negative emotions appropriate to the circumstances are a sign of good mental health and essential for adapting." Dr. Stan Kutcher.
"Kids and teens are wired to adapt.  And parents and caregivers have been so creative in the ways that they are using this opportunity of crisis to teach their kids about the value of helping and about how to see the positive." Dr. Ashley Miller, BC Children's Hospital

Data from the Angus Reid Survey April 2020

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Signs to Watch For and How to Help

Mental Illness

Mental illnesses are just that, illnesses: illnesses that require treatment to get better just like any other, like taking cold medicine to get rid of a runny nose. The more we learn about them, the less stigma there will be. Mental illness does not discriminate. They can affect anybody. By speaking out, by speaking your truth, you not only help to reduce stigma, judgment, and shame, but also you will be able to get the help you need so that you can begin to feel better and live the greatest life you can live. There‘s nothing wrong with that!  (


The COVID-19 pandemic has created worry for many people. Increased worry that starts to overwhelm a person's ability to cope can be defined as anxiety. Some anxiety is helpful as it can motivate us to prepare and protect ourselves by following advice from health experts including hand washing and physical distancing.

But when a person has an anxiety disorder, it is no longer helpful. These worries become fears that aren't grounded in reality. People with anxiety disorders usually overestimate the risks of a threat and underestimate their own ability to manage a situation. The focus is often on worst-case scenarios and seek to have control within predictable routines. (Canadian Pediatric Association, 2020)

A person with anxiety may also:

have strong negative feelings like fear or sadness

feel physical discomfort, like stomachaches and breathing difficulties

try to cope using behaviours that aren't helpful, like avoidance, compulsions or  substance use

Suggestions for talking to anxious teens about the pandemic:

Ask them what they know and what questions they have

Correct misinformation and address their questions in a reassuring way

Explore and validate their thoughts and feelings about the situation

Ask whether they have any physical discomfort, which may suggest anxiety

Limit their exposure to media which can make existing fears even worse

Strategies to challenge your child's dysfunctional thinking patterns:

Identify and challenge anxious thoughts by guiding them towards more realistic thoughts, which may make them less anxious. For example:  Ask your teen to write down their worried thought ("I'm going to get sick.") Help them think through the evidence that supports the worry ("Other people are getting sick") and the evidence that goes against the worry ("Nobody I know is sick yet." or "Most kids do not get sick from this illness.")  This supports realistic thinking.
Think about other ways to look at the situation that are more balanced and optimistic ("This is hard, but not forever. Life will go back to normal.")

Remind them that the family, community, schools, and the world are doing a lot to protect themselves by social distancing and hand washing.

Reassure them that even if they or someone they love do get sick, there are supports and resources to help.  

Model positive coping skills.

If your child is on medication, continue to check in with health professionals.

Maintain routines, healthy lifestyle choices, and connections within the family as well as with friends/family.
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It can be difficult to identify depression in teenagers since adolescents are often moody. Signs and symptoms, such as increased sadness and irritability, can easily be overlooked during this health crisis and time of social isolation from friends and routines. (Child Mind Institute, 2020)

Symptoms include:

-  unusual sadness or           irritability that persists

-  loss of interest in in activities they once enjoyed

-  changes in weight

-  shifts in sleeping patterns

-  low energy

-  harsh self-assessment ("I'm ugly. I'll never make friends.")

-  feelings worthlessness, hopelessness

-  thoughts of or attempts at self-harm or suicide

If any of these symptoms are present for at least two weeks, they could suggest depression.

How to help:

-  foster a family environment in which children feel comfortable sharing their thoughts and feelings

-  make time to check in and explore how they're doing

-  take some time to explore the specifics of why they are feeling this way

-  validate their feelings and refrain from judgment ("I hear that. That sounds really hard.  I'm sorry that you're feeling so sad.")


Steps to engage:

-  stay active physically and with social connections 

-  Keep a sense of positive perspective

-  Acknowledge uncertainty

-  Challenge negative thoughts by sticking to the facts

-  Make plans to connect with others and completing tasks. Daily schedules are supportive

-  Make new goals

-  Focus on gratitude
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How to seek treatment

If your child continues to show symptoms of depression, it's important to get professional help. Speak with your child's primary doctor or paediatrician to get a referral for a mental health professional. Connect with your school counsellor to collaborate on this process. There are different kinds of therapy and medication.

If your child is experiencing suicidal thoughts, it's important to seek emergency care immediately. You can call the Integrated Mobile Crisis Response Team (IMCRT) at 1-888-494-3888 or 911 if there is imminent danger.
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Support, Hope and Resilience

Owen, age 11, battles panic attacks, anxiety and depression with bravery and courage. The Buddy Check for Jesse Program changed the way he and others viewed his illness and gave him the support and purpose he needed for recovery and continued inspiration.
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Young Wisdom on Mental Health and Wellness 
When the life of a young person is on the line, Kids Help Phone is there to answer
Call 1-800-668-6868 or Text 686868 

By Youth for Youth

First Nations Health Authority's youth advisory committee, Life Promotion for All My Relations, met to discuss challenges experienced by First Nations youth during the COVID-19 pandemic.  The Foundry has online services to offer counselling sessions via video, online chat and phone including virtual peer support, primary care and family support.  Contact 250-383-3552.  For urgent support call:  The KUU-US Crisis Line at 1-800-588-8717

Chief Joseph sends a message to all in light of COVID-19.

 "If ever there was a time and a need to honour our common humanity, "Namawyut (we are all one), this is it. This is the moment.


Gardening and Mental Health

A report in the Mental Health Journal cited gardening as being able to reduce stress and improve mood, with a reduction in symptoms of depression and anxiety.

To that end, LifeCycles and Farm to School BC have teamed up with the Greater Victoria School District to support the "Get Growing, Victoria!" program.  

From May 25 - June 11, we will be distributing FREE vegetable plants and "How To Garden" resources to SD 61 families and staff.
The plant selection includes: tomatoes, cucumbers, zucchini, lettuce, mustard greens, basil, parsley, swiss chard, kale, delicata squash, and cabbage.

Please click on the link below for more information on when and where the plants will be available. 

Stigma-Free COVID-19 Youth Wellness Toolkit 
Kelty Mental Health - Taking Care of yourself and your family during COVID-19 
Need2 - Youth Space Suicide Intervention Toolkits for Parents and Caregivers
Kids Help Phone - Call 1-800-668-6868 or Text 686868 
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Click the button below for a comprehensive list of Community Services and their availability during the pandemic.

Learning Resources
The Ministry of Education site contains excellent information on learning at home and resources for families
The Greater Victoria School District provides learning opportunities for elementary, middle and secondary age students.
TedED - Parents can sign up for grade specific daily lessons on any subject imaginable.  Fun and engaging!
BCTF - Aboriginal Education Teaching Resources
Indigenous Educational Resources

  Learning Resources for Students with Complex Needs

Food Resources for Families 

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