Research into how the pandemic has impacted mental health and other health conditions
In addition to uncovering how the virus physically affects people and how best to treat it, research into the health impacts of the pandemic on society has also been a crucial and active area of research at BC Children’s.
Concerns about transmission, as well as the psychological impacts of public health measures in response to the pandemic, have had a marked effect on people’s mental health.
Dr. S. Evelyn Stewart and Dr. Hasina Samji are using an online survey to gauge how the pandemic has impacted young people’s feelings, thoughts and actions. This information is informing researchers, clinicians and policy-makers about how young people are managing and what resources are most helpful.
Dr. Quynh Doan, interim senior executive director at BCCHR, also launched a study assessing the mental health impacts of the pandemic using a previously established mental health screening instrument known as MyHEARTSMAP. This tool is now available for all patients in the BC Children’s Emergency Department.
The psychological impacts of the pandemic can also exacerbate other mental health conditions. BC Children's Hospital researchers are involved in studies investigating:
- the combined effects of the pandemic and eating disorders (Dr. Jennifer Coehlo)
- how COVID-19 is impacting children with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (Dr. Janet Mah)
- the impacts of chronic stress and the resulting epigenetic changes (Dr. Sarah Merrill)
- neurodivergent children (Dr. Steven Miller)
BC Children's Hospital researchers are also looking into how the pandemic has impacted children at schools. Funded by the Government of Canada through its COVID-19 Immunity Task Force (CITF), Dr. Pascal Lavoie, Dr. Louise Mâsse, Dr. David Goldfarb and colleagues examined COVID-19 infection among Vancouver School District staff during the 2020-2021 school year. They tested school staff for SARS-CoV-2 antibodies and asked whether they had experienced symptoms to determine how many had been exposed to the virus. Their findings suggested that, with appropriate mitigation strategies in place, in-person schooling is not associated with significantly increased risk of SARS-CoV-2 transmission for classroom-based staff compared to members of the general population.