Calgary pediatricians-in-training extend mental health supports to adolescents as pandemic continues

Demand is increasing for a presentation, designed by pediatricians-in-training from Calgary, to help teens who may have mental health challenges as the pandemic continues.

A group of pediatric residents from Alberta Children’s Hospital visited nearly a dozen Calgary high schools in the fall to talk to students about the science behind mental health issues like anxiety and the Depression.

The presentation, called Stress and the brain, works to de-stigmatize mental health problems, gives children the language to express what they are feeling and connects them to help if they are having difficulty.

“The most striking thing that I have heard is that a lot of children were so surprised to hear about the resources available and were so surprised to learn that they could contact these resources,” said the Dr. Rebecca Hay, pediatric resident at the Alberta Children’s Hospital.

“I think a lot of times with teens they may not feel like they have that kind of autonomy and sometimes those feelings of helplessness and loss of control can exacerbate the underlying mental health issues or problems. of stress.”

Hay said she is now working with the Calgary Board of Education to organize question-and-answer sessions to provide additional support for teachers in the coming months.

She has been contacted by mental health advocates and other schools in Calgary and into Nunavut. And while it’s still in its infancy, she hopes to adapt the presentation so that it can be offered outside of Alberta.

The next step for the group is to bring the presentation to entire families in Calgary.

Dr. Rebecca Hay, left, and her colleagues, Dr. Elise Martin, middle, and Dr. Madi Riddell, right, presented at 11 Calgary high schools in the fall in an effort to de-stigmatize the issues mental health issues and to help connect adolescents with supports. (Submitted by Rebecca Hay)

“It’s really empowering parents to say ‘this is what I could be looking for and this is who I could contact and access to help my teenager and maybe even help myself.’ I think a lot of us are struggling, ”Hay said.

“Parents are their children’s best supporters and advocates, and we really want to give parents the tools they need to be able to do this. … Everyone needs a little more TLC these days. So if we can help a few parents too who may be feeling a bit lost, that’s something we would like to do. “

The final session is offered as a webinar in partnership with Alberta Health Services as part of their Community Education Service program on Thursday, January 6 at 6:30 p.m.

According to Lori Roe, of the AHS Calgary-area Child and Youth Mental Health, Addiction and Psychiatry Program, the demand for scientific information like this is increasing.

“There appears to be both a slight increase in the number of people grappling with their mental health and trying to understand their mental health and the impact of the pandemic on that,” she noted.

“But the other thing that I think is a bit positive is that we’ve also seen an increase in interest in getting more information and knowledge and a willingness… to really take action and to start being more proactive. “

Roe said it’s important for families to understand that it’s normal for children to experience anxiety or stress related to COVID.

“I think it’s really important both to provide the language around when is there really something we need to pay attention to and there is something wrong and what is what is normal? And how not to exaggerate the normal reactions? ” she said.

“We have to find that balance to understand how can we support this normal reaction and help children and young people to be heard, understood and validated for their feelings and emotions and ideally not to let that shift afterwards to become more serious and truly need intervention. ”

And, with an increase in the number of Alberta children presenting to hospital for mental health crises during the pandemic, Roe said early intervention – involving the whole family – is key.

“In order for us to deal with this wave of emergency department presentations and these acute mental health presentations, we need to get information out.”

If you are having difficulty, or know someone who is, you can call the Canadian Suicide Prevention Service 24/7 helpline at 1 833 456-4566, or text “CONNECT At Kids Help Phone (which also serves adults) at 686868..

For a list of 24 hour crisis centers in your area, visit the Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention website.

If you think your mental health or that of a loved one is at risk of an immediate crisis, call 911.

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