VICTORIA – Children and teens who are experiencing anxiety and stress because of the COVID-19 pandemic will benefit from new digital resources from Anxiety Canada to help them cope.

Anxiety Canada has been granted $555,000 to develop resources aimed at children and teens. This venture is a partnership with the ministry at a time when the pandemic, the restart plan and return to normal activities are impacting mental health.

COVID-19 has affected people’s mental health – effects that will be felt in B.C. for months and years to come.

“The mental health of many children, youth, families and caregivers took a hit in the pandemic, so we are adding resources to help people deal with these challenges,” said Sheila Malcolmson, Minister of Mental Health and Addictions. “I am grateful for Anxiety Canada’s commitment to helping young people before, during and after the pandemic.”

A leader in developing free online, self-help and evidence-based resources, Anxiety Canada will use the funding to create a number of resources designed to reach children and teens in communities throughout the province. One focus will be to develop the Behind the Mask campaign, a provincewide mental health literacy video series, specifically informed by children and teens about their struggles with anxiety during the pandemic. The videos will build awareness and understanding about anxiety and its impact, and provide information and tools to manage anxiety.

B.C.-based animators will produce the videos and develop them with support from Charlie Demers, a nationally recognized voice actor and comedian who lives with anxiety.

“As a six-year-old boy, I remember having to wear a paper mask when I visited my mom at Vancouver General Hospital, and I’ve always felt this experience deeply impacted my disproportionate fears of contaminating others later in life,” Demers said. “When face masks became a very necessary part of all our children’s lives in 2020, I knew that without the resources to guide them out the other side of the pandemic, thousands more kids could be permanently left with similarly, very painfully skewed perspectives. I thought I could contribute in some small way to preventing some of this suffering.”

Judith Law, chief executive officer, Anxiety Canada, said: “Humour helps us to see things from multiple perspectives, to grasp unconventional ideas or ways of thinking, and to provide us with opportunities to laugh and reflect on uncomfortable topics. Laughter is good medicine. We are thankful to the Province for its investment into these new resources. Because of our decades-long focus on building awareness and tools about anxiety and anxiety disorders, we are excited to develop and deliver this series.”

This funding also supports the continued distribution of digital and print resources on anxiety and anxiety disorders for children and teens, as well as panel discussions and podcast interviews to further connect people and facilitate important conversation.

The Behind the Mask mental health literacy campaign will be promoted with child and youth mental health stakeholders, Indigenous partners, professionals, people with lived experience and the Province.

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