University of Calgary launches ongoing survey to study COVID-19 pandemic’s effect on youth

A new University of Calgary study is asking Edmonton and Calgary students ages 12 to 18 how they’re dealing with COVID-19.

The 20-minute survey centres on how their mental health has been impacted throughout the pandemic.

The data will be used to let schools know how to the restart has gone and what supports will be needed during the school year.

Read more: Coronavirus: What schools in Alberta have COVID-19 outbreaks

Dr. Kelly Schwartz, an associate professor in school and applied child psychology, said Saturday his team partnered with four metro school divisions — public and Catholic in Calgary and Edmonton — to answer the question: how are students doing with the return to school?

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The survey focuses on how students have experienced the pandemic, their mental and behavioural health (mood, sleep and social connections) and resilience factors (coping and support).

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“There’s been talk about how COVID-19 and its effects might have a delayed impact, and so we want to follow students throughout the school year and see how this impacts them at three other times during the school year,” he said, noting the next surveys in November, February and May.

Read more: Coronavirus: Calgary mental health services want you to reach out, be self-compassionate

Schwartz said researchers are going to turn data around quickly so schools can use the information and feedback.

“The goal here is that this is not just data we’re collecting to ask, ‘How are things going?’ and let them go. We’re going to use this data and help schools use this data to actually support students,” he said.

It’s an opportunity to hear from kids directly with consent from parents.

“Some parts of mental health are not best seen or caught by parents, and so in some cases, it’s best to ask the youth themselves,” Schwartz said.

Read more: Coronavirus: Kids are going back to school. How will it affect their mental health?

Since the survey launched on Sept. 8, about 5,000 parents have consented and 1,200 youth completed it.

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Schwartz hopes 3,000 youth answer the questionnaire, adding that the ones who do will receive a $10 gift card.

Parents can request a survey through the U of C’s site and email parents@ucalgary.ca for more information.

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