State of Emergency, CEO Update
The Province has declared a second State of Emergency in Ontario. The number of Covid-19 cases in our communities is high and the reopening of schools has been further delayed.
Many families will be struggling to make it all work.
A lot of us will be trying to find answers to the tough questions:
If remote learning negatively impacted my child’s mental health before, what will happen this time? How long will this lockdown last? What can I do to help my child or teen endure this? With so little time in the day for work and remote learning, how will parents find time for their own mental wellness?
How will we cope?
As if that was not enough, the world watched riots last week on Washington’s Capitol Hill– an act that threatened democracy and reminded us all that racism against Black and racialized communities continues. This trauma can significantly impact the mental health of Black and racialized communities. Worrisome reports indicate more unrest may be coming to the U.S.
The chaos effects us all.
These periods of intense stress that families have faced persistently through the pandemic, can lead to new mental health issues. It can also exacerbate mental illness that children and parents were already facing.
There is no question in my mind that the challenges we are facing today are harder felt by families who are struggling with child and youth mental health.
For many of you, you were already in a critical place – at times feeling like you were struggling to keep up with the day–to–day. You were seeking help for severe mental health issues only to land on long wait lists for specialized care. Some of your homes have been disrupted by episodes of violence or you may have experienced fear that your child or teen may harm themselves. For parents with young kids, you may be trying to understand if what your child is experiencing is normal. You may be bearing witness to some of the hardest things your teens have ever had to face. Some days it might feel like you just can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel.
Add to that, through the pandemic you’ve been faced with new and extraordinary challenges, including adapting to the new or adjusted delivery of certain mental health services. Many of you have experienced significant losses in your support network. Many of us have grieved enormous losses.
So, yes, I do believe the world events we are facing today are especially challenging on those of us whose children struggle with mental health issues.
I equally believe that there is a light at the end of the tunnel.
When I hear from families or connect with parents during our #kidscantwait Twitter Chats, I’m always inspired by your perseverance. This pandemic has been hard, but you always look for silver linings. You advocate loudly and you fight hard to protect the mental wellness of your children and families. I know sometimes it can be very isolating, but you are not alone, and you don’t have to go through this next part on your own.
Children’s Mental Health Ontario is here for you.
In our roles as parents, we must continue to help our children feel heard, understood and supported, but you don’t have to do it alone. Our child and youth mental health centres across Ontario have been providing front-line mental health supports throughout the pandemic helping families navigate, not only the mental health of children, but that of the entire family.
If you don’t feel like you are coping well, or if you or your child’s mental health is suffering, please reach out for help. If you’re seeing behaviours in your child or teen that you’re unsure about, reach out. If you want to talk to a professional about ways to manage the frustrations or the lack of motivation your child is facing in remote learning, reach out. Our child and youth mental health care professionals can help.
If you feel like the challenges you are experiencing are impacting how you and your family function, please reach out for help. There is no issue or question too big or too small.
In many parts of Ontario, one call will connect you with a virtual walk-in clinic that can help steer you in the right direction to get further supports or help you with the issues you are facing that day.
If you’re not sure where to start, check out our Find Help web page. When you enter your child’s age and your region, you will be directed on who to contact for help.
If you are the parent or a caregiver of a child with mental health need, consider connecting with fellow parents on a similar journey through Parents for Children’s Mental Health. Email firstname.lastname@example.org to join a local peer support group and meet parents who want to support you.
We have online resources, too.
Working with child and youth mental health professionals, Children’s Mental Health Ontario has created many online resources to help.
- Get Ready to Take on Winter for tips to help you through a winter lockdown
- Mental Wellness and Remote Learning and Four Tips to Ease Frustration in Remote Learning have tips to help make online learning a little easier
- Parenting Survival Guide by Ann Douglas with support and guidance for parents and caregivers whose children are struggling with mental illness.
- Parenting in a Pandemic has tips specifically for parents relating to the pandemic
- Our COVID-19 section has information for families dealing with anxiety and grief. There is also a section of links to partner resources.
For our part, Children’s Mental Health Ontario will continue to raise our voice and advocate for children’s mental health.
We will keep pushing government leaders to prioritize children’s mental health when they are making difficult decisions such as closing schools. We will continue to advocate alongside our partners for a timely and safe reopening of schools because we know that when it comes to children’s mental health and development, school is the best place for our kids to be.
We also understand that education is fundamental to family wellbeing, as is family respite, routine, school-based rehabilitation services, early identification of health and child protection issues, and remedying social isolation that so many children face.
We will keep raising our voices for children’s mental health in these difficult times.
We have come this far, and we will get through this next part, too.
Kim Moran, CEO, Children’s Mental Health Ontario