Seven In 10 Young People in Canada Say Pandemic Having Negative Impact On Their Mental Health

TORONTO – A recent digital poll launched by UNICEF Canada through  its U-Report platform asked over 600 young people in every province and territory, including those furthest from opportunity, about their mental health, education, work and family dynamics to take a more in-depth look at the issues they are facing during the COVID-19 lockdown. 

“Many adults are talking about the impacts of COVID-19 on behalf of children and youth instead of giving young people the platform to tell us how they really think and feel, in their own words,” said Alli Truesdell, UNICEF Canada’s Youth Participation Lead. “For example, 80 per cent of respondents said they are somewhat, very or extremely concerned about the level of stress they perceive within their family and seven in 10 respondents say the pandemic is negatively impacting their mental health.”

U-Report allows young people to share their unfiltered views on how the pandemic has forever changed their childhoods and their futures. Launched in October 2018 by UNICEF Canada, U-Report Canada is a digital polling platform for young people ages 13-24 to gather youth perspectives on issues to influence positive change. 

The poll, which ran from April 30 to May 5, 2020, included responses from 125 U-Reporters across the country. The results give Canadians important insights into the lives of children and youth in Canada: 

  • • The majority of U-Reporters (69 per cent) say the pandemic is having a negative or very negative impact on their mental health.
  • • 80 per cent are somewhat, very or extremely concerned about the level of stress they perceive within their family, with 16 per cent saying they are at least somewhat concerned or extremely concerned about violence in the home.
  • • A fifth of respondents say they or their families have less money for groceries, and 12 per cent say their communities are facing a shortage of healthy foods.
  • • 46 per cent say they are falling behind on their schoolwork. Among the challenges of schooling online, they most often cite a lack of motivation, difficulty focusing and not enough interaction with their teachers.
  • • The majority of respondents (86 per cent) are at least somewhat concerned about maintaining relationships with peers and family, with almost half (45 per cent) very or extremely concerned. Many say that not being able to see their friends is the most difficult restriction for them. 
  • • Two-thirds of respondents have lost their jobs or lost a potential summer job. Only 11 per cent are receiving money from the government.
  • • Some respondents say that the opportunity to spend more time with family has been something positive to come out of the pandemic as well as more personal time and the opportunity to slow down and take a break from being busy. 

• U-Reporters identify restoring access to health care services, schools, workplaces, mental health care services and programs as the key priorities for the government when re-opening Canada.

• The results of the poll will be used by the U-Report Canada Steering Committee, a partnership with Boys and Girls Clubs of Canada, First Nations Child and Family Caring Society, Kids Help Phone, The Students Commission of Canada, YMCA Canada, and the RBC Foundation to promote understanding among Canadians about how young people are being affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, and ensure their views and experiences are taken into account in decision-making.