Promoting mental health in immigrant, refugee, and non-immigrant children: A British Columbia intergenerational population cohort study

Mental health problems are estimated to be the most common disabling condition among adolescents worldwide, with children growing up in socially disadvantaged homes having up to three times the risk of mental health problems compared to children without such disadvantage. Studies show a high degree of intergenerational stability in these patterns, with social stressors putting particular subgroups of children at higher risk from the earliest stages of development. Immigrant and refugee children make up a significant proportion of the BC child population, and have a unique set of circumstances that may increase or decrease their risk of mental health problems as they reach adolescence. In BC, an established system of child development monitoring paired with new data linkages to provincial health, immigration, and Statistics Canada records create a globally unique opportunity to investigate continuities from maternal mental health problems to childhood emotional symptoms and adolescent mental health problems, for immigrant, refugee, and non-immigrant children. The purpose is to identify opportunities to break these continuities, informing the timing and design of preventative interventions to promote population mental health.

End of Award Update: December 2022


Most exciting outputs

This project opened a door for me to contribute to two integrated knowledge translation studies monitoring family, child, and youth
mental health during the COVID-19 pandemic. Working together with researchers and stakeholders from public mental health and
government, we brought urgent attention to pandemic-related population mental health trends among BC families and young people
through research reports, a policy brief, an op-ed, media interviews, and eight published articles. I was excited to at the same time
complete my original study on mental health among immigrant, refugee, and non-immigrant children and present these results at the
International Population Data Linkage Network Conference in 2022. Findings from this study suggested that BC children with
immigration backgrounds enter school with lower emotional health than children with non-immigration backgrounds and are likely to
benefit from increased social supports.

Impacts so far

Our research on child and youth mental health during the pandemic was referred to during a Debate of the BC Legislative Assembly
and referenced in a BC Ministry of Education report on Key Principles and Strategies for K-12 Mental Health Promotion in Schools. I
also had the opportunity to present this research to over 100 health professionals through the Centre for Health Evaluation and
Outcome Sciences Work in Progress seminar series, drawing attention and inviting conversation around the pandemic recovery
response for supporting the mental health of families and young people in BC.

Potential future influence

The connections I have made with researchers and stakeholders through this award have initiated a pathway for what I hope will be
many future opportunities to synergize between research, health services, and policy to make collective population health impacts at a
systems level.

Next steps

I will continue collaborating with colleagues and bridging connections between research and practice in my new role in a health
services research and evaluation position. Results from the immigration mental health study have been selected for submission to a
journal special issue and will hopefully become available in 2023!

Useful links

Related videos

Watch this presentation on the mental health impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on students, parents, and teachers, produced for the Centre for Health Evaluation and Outcome Sciences (CHÉOS) Work in Progress Seminar Series, featuring Anne Gadermann, Kimberly Thomson, and Monique Gagné Petteni.