Meeting the service needs of youth with and without a self-reported mental health diagnosis during COVID-19

The COVID-19 pandemic catalyzed major changes in how youth mental health (MH) services are delivered. Understanding youth’s MH, awareness and use of services since the pandemic, and differences between youth with and without a MH diagnosis, can help us optimize MH services during the pandemic and beyond. Objectives: We investigated youth’s MH and service use one year into the pandemic and explored differences between those with and without a self-reported MH diagnosis. Methods: In February 2021, we administered a web-based survey to youth, 12-25 years, in Ontario. Data from 1373 out of 1497 (91.72%) participants were analyzed. We assessed differences in MH and service use between those with (N=623, 45.38%) and without (N=750, 54.62%) a self-reported MH diagnosis. Logistic regressions were used to explore MH diagnosis as a predictor of service use while controlling for confounders. Results: 86.73% of participants reported worse MH since COVID-19, with no between-group differences. Participants with a MH diagnosis had higher rates of MH problems, service awareness and use, compared to those without a diagnosis. MH diagnosis was the strongest predictor of service use. Gender and affordability of basic needs also independently predicted use of distinct services. Conclusion: Various services are required to mitigate the negative effects of the pandemic on youth MH and meet their service needs. Whether youth have a MH diagnosis may be important to understanding what services they are aware of and use. Sustaining pandemic-related service changes require increasing youth’s awareness of digital interventions and overcoming other barriers to care.

Lead Researchers

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  1. Christine Polihronis

    Investigator, CHEO Research Institute

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