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

Pandemic-Proof: Synthesizing Real-World Knowledge of Promising Mental Health and Substance Use Practices for Young People Who Are Experiencing or Have Experienced Homelessness

Key Messages

  • The majority of providers are reporting concerning increases in mental health challenges and substance use among the youth they serve. Approximately 1/3 are reporting increases in suicidal ideation and drug overdoses.
  • The majority of providers have adapted their practices by connecting virtually or over the phone; however, this can be problematic for young people with no internet or phone access and for those living in unsafe situations.
  • Promising practice adaptations include: holistic mobile outreach (e.g., mental health and substance use supports combined with meals and art supplies), “live” virtual drop-in sessions on social media platforms, and “self-serve” virtual applications.


  • Youth
  • Homelessness
  • Substance use
  • Mental health
  • Interventions
  • Health equity
  • 2SLGBTQ (two-spirit, lesbian, gay, bisexual, queer)
  • Socioeconomic inclusion
  • COVID-19
  • Pandemic


  • Nominated Principal Applicant: Naomi Thulien, NP-PHC, PhD, McMaster University School of Nursing
  • Thulien, N.S., School of Nursing, McMaster University, Hamilton, ON; MAP Centre for Urban Health Solutions, Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute of St Michael’s Hospital, Toronto, ON
  • Noble, A. Factor-Inwentash Faculty of Social Work, University of Toronto, Toronto, ON; Covenant House Toronto, Toronto, ON
  • Daley, M., The Lived Experience Lab, Toronto, ON
  • French, D.,  A Way Home Canada, Toronto, ON
  • Hwang, S.W., MAP Centre for Urban Health Solutions, Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute of St Michael’s Hospital, Toronto, ON; Division of General Internal Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Toronto, Toronto, ON; Dalla Lana School of Public Health, University of Toronto, Toronto, ON
  • Kidd, S, Department of Psychiatry, University of Toronto, Toronto, ON; Psychology Division, Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, 1001 Queen St. W., Unit 2-1, #161, Toronto, ON

For more information, please contact: Dr. Naomi Thulien,

Related Syntheses

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Vulnerable or At-Risk Populations


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