COVID-19 and Mental Health (CMH) Initiative: Research

What is the impact of the COVID 19 pandemic on the mental health of children aged 5–12, and what are the specific issues faced by children with a disability or chronic illness? A scoping review of problems experienced and promising avenues for intervention

Key Messages

Both our partners and the scientific data seem to point to concerns regarding the mental health of children aged 5–12, particularly in terms of sleep, anxiety and difficult behaviours. However, the scientific literature contains very little empirical data on this subject. Although children with neurodevelopmental disorders (e.g., ADD) may be at greater risk, it seems too early to identify risk and protective factors or promising interventions for addressing the specific impacts of COVID 19. It is essential to continue to coordinate the research already underway and to regularly update the knowledge synthesis over the coming months, in order to be able to prioritize the efforts that will best support children’s mental health.

Lay Summary

  • Of the five articles analyzed, four described impacts (three in China, one in Italy) and one suggested a method for intervention with parents (United States). The populations studied were variable; while they included children of elementary school age, none focused specifically on that population. One of the articles reported information on children diagnosed with ADD/ADHD. The observed effects were diverse: anxiety, sleep disturbance, behavioural problems, emotional problems, developmental delays or behavioural regression. However, there is very little comparative or clinical data available to help determine the real impact of the pandemic or which children need more intensive support from health care professionals. One study, as well, stated that the great majority of children show signs of adapting. There is little information available about which children may be at greater risk of mental health problems; nonetheless, pre existing health conditions (e.g., ADHD), family relationships and school workload are all potential factors to consider. The authors have developed recommendations for screening and caring for children who may have mental health issues, but no intervention intended directly for children has yet been evaluated. The only documented intervention reported positive results for tele-psychiatric treatment (OPTT) that was intended to support parents (war veterans) but also showed positive effects in children. Given the limited information currently available, it is important that we continue our research to increase the quantity and quality of information drawn from the literature.
  • The comments of the partners involved in this consultation generally accorded with the results in the literature. They mentioned several initiatives underway to support children’s mental health and document the impact of the pandemic. They also mentioned aspects that are rarely addressed in the literature but that would need to be documented in order to implement efforts, identify children at greatest risk and adapt to changing circumstances that in time could influence mental health. Over the coming months, we will update the literature, coordinate efforts and potentially collect additional data to respond to our partners’ concerns.

Keywords

  • Mental health
  • Children
  • Sociocultural determinants of health
  • Disability
  • School‑health care collaboration
  • Chronic illness
  • COVID-19
  • Participatory research
  • Scoping review

Author(s)

  • Nominated Principal Applicant: Chantal Camden, professor at Université de Sherbrooke, researcher at CRCHUS and at IUPLSSS
  • Nominated Principal Applicant: Catherine Malboeuf-Hurtubise, Faculty of Psychology, Department of Psychology, Bishop’s University
  • Pasquale Roberge, Faculty of medicine and health sciences, Department of family medicine, Université de Sherbrooke
  • Mélissa Généreux, Faculty of medicine and health sciences, Department of family medicine, Department of community health sciences, Université de Sherbrooke
  • Julie Lane, Faculty of education, Department of psycho-education, Université de Sherbrooke
  • Emmanuelle Jasmin, Department of occupational therapy, Université de Sherbrooke
  • Jean-Claude Kalubi, Faculty of education, Université de Sherbrooke
  • Eve-Line Bussières, Department of psychology, Université de Québec à Trois-Rivières
  • Nicolas Chadi, Department of pediatrics, Université de Montréal
  • Marjorie Montreuil, Department of nursing science, McGill University
  • Jan Willem Gorter, CanChild, McMaster University
  • Keiko Shikako-Thomas, CHILD-BRIGHT Network, McGill University
  • Karine Tremblay, patient‑partner, Université de Sherbrooke
  • Jasmin Roy, Jasmin Roy Sophie Desmarais Foundation

For more information, please contact: Élodie Hérault, elodie.herault@usherbrooke.ca.

Related Syntheses

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Population

Vulnerable or At-Risk Populations, Chronic Disease and/or Mental Illness, Children, Youth and Families

Language

To ensure the rapid dissemination of this critical information, information is published in the language in which it was submitted. Please contact us for French or English translations.

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