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Parents with children under 18 reporting troubling tolls to their mental health: survey

Last Updated Jun 29, 2020 at 9:18 pm PDT

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New study highlighting troubling mental health concerns for various subgroups

1 in 10 parents with kids under 18 had thoughts or feelings of suicide during pandemic

Expert says system-level interventions and solutions need to be put in place for parents

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) — To accompany the pandemic, a new survey reports economic devastation impacts overall mental health, including an increase in suicide for parents with children under 18.

The University of British Columbia and the Canadian Mental Health Association found 1 in 10 of these parents had thoughts or feelings of suicide during the pandemic.

Emily Jenkins, an assistant professor for the School of Nursing at UBC, tells NEWS 1130 impacts to mental health for this subgroup is because parents have been hit particularly hard at the moment.

“They’re suffering as a consequence, so we’ve got people who are concerned about their finances, concerned about their job stability and may have experienced job loss,” she says.

Jennkins adds it’s important to note that parents included in the study also bleed into other venerable communities where the toll of their mental health will be impacted even further.

“You can imagine that the intersections of those kind of social and structural vulnerabilities are going to magnify the potential for risk.”

Indigenous people, those with disabilities, people who identify as LGBTQ+ or Canadians with existing mental illness, have also reported mental health impacts.

“The impact for communities we’re already experiencing, health, social and structural inequity have been hit the hardest which isn’t that surprising but it allows us to consider … our responses and our mental health solutions,” she says.”

Jenkins says this study can now assist policy decision-makers in updating accessibility to mental health resources.

“We need to figure out strategies that can have children returned safely to school. You know this is a universal child, right. That is to education and provides so much more than just education … it’s an opportunity for them to develop socially and emotionally. It’s a place where they can find safety, where there’s often, support and resources if they’re struggling with their own mental health or physical health struggles in the family,” she explains.

“Often there’s food programs and can it takes off some of the load for parents who are trying to manage multiple things whether that be full-time employment, whether it be living with a disability or mental health condition.”

Although despite the added stress, Jenkins says the study has also seen parents show signs of “resilience.”

“People have identified that it’s an opportunity for them to grow more closeness with their children and spend more time and connect in different ways.”

According to the study, Canadians are finding ways to protect their own mental health.

Fifty-nine per cent of Canadians are using exercise are their preferred strategy, 56 per cent are connecting with family and friends and 43 per cent are maintaining a healthy lifestyle.