July 9, 2024

Research addresses mental health disparities among Canada’s youth

U of A project aims to ensure Indigenous, Black and Chinese Canadian elementary students have inclusive access to vital mental health literacy resources.

A student writing at a classroom table. (Photo: Getty Images)
A University of Alberta researcher is leading a multi-province project to ensure that Indigenous, Black and Chinese Canadian elementary students have access to in-school mental health resources that meet their needs.

In Canada, about one in five children and youth (aged four to 17) experiences significant mental health problems that require professional care. The COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated the problems, with increases in the number of children experiencing anxiety, stress and even major depressive disorders, according to Yifeng Wei, an assistant professor in the Department of Psychiatry.

Indigenous, Black and Chinese Canadian children and youth are particularly at risk, says Wei, who is a member of the Women and Children’s Health Research Institute (WCHRI). She says schools are the ideal place for children to learn mental health literacy because that’s where they spend much of their daily time.

“When we intervene early, we get better outcomes,” Wei says. “If we teach kids how to maintain good mental health using evidence-based strategies, they are better off later in their lives.”

Wei was one of six U of A researchers who recently won the first Strategic Catalyst Awards from One Child Every Child, a new national organization focused on child health and wellness research.

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