Hamilton school boards are promoting a new web page with resources for children and youth experiencing mental health challenges amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
The page, developed by Hamilton public health in partnership with the Lynwood Charlton Centre, offers tips for youth, families and caregivers and “clear information about where to find help,” said Louise Murray-Leung, family engagement lead at the centre.
“The impact of COVID-19 on the mental and emotional well-being of families, especially children and youth, is real and concerning,” Murray-Leung said in a Jan. 21 media release. “The best thing families can do is to reach out with any questions or concerns they have.”
The page helps families identify mental health concerns, know what to do when they notice substance abuse and know how to answer kids’ questions about the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The mental health needs of children, youth and families continue to increase through this pandemic,” said Jen Vickers Manzin, director of public health’s healthy families division. “It is normal to experience increased stress and anxiety during times of crisis.”
The page, which includes information from the city’s school boards, was launched ahead of the 11th annual Bell Let’s Talk Day, a national day to raise awareness and money for mental health initiatives.
“Some of the challenges (students) are facing right now are . . . heightened because they can’t engage in those normal releases,” said Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board chair Dawn Danko. Everyday activities, like getting together with friends and playing sports, are currently off the table.
“I think that compounds the stress that they may have, whether it’s because they’re isolating in their house or doing school work online that can be frustrating and challenging,” Danko added.
Toni Kovach, superintendent of education with the Hamilton-Wentworth Catholic District School Board, said mental health is a “significant priority.”
“The mental health and well-being of our community, our students, our staff is at the very, very forefront of all of this experience,” she said.
She said while information, tips and resources are crucial, kids will often reach out to an educator where there is a pre-existing relationship.
“It’s critical in this environment that communication continues to exist,” she said.
Find the page here: https://www.hamilton.ca/coronavirus/child-and-youth-mental-health-during-covid-19.
Kate McCullough, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Hamilton Spectator