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edited by Rachel Van Woezik
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1 +//The COVID-19 pandemic has shed light on the inequity in children’s mental health services. There have been countless reports of increased depression, anxiety, and feelings of isolation amongst children and youth, which are disproportionately higher for some populations. While conversations have been started around enhancing mental healthcare, policy and services are not yet designed to meet the needs of people who are racialized, have disabilities, or who have neurodevelopmental conditions. This SPARK: Live webinar will feature three experts who will share recent findings on inequity in children’s mental health services. These experts will discuss strategies to improve mental health and healthcare, policy-relevant considerations, and how we can inform system changes. Following the three presentations, panelists will take part in a live, round-table Q&A session with the audience.//
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7 +**Mental Health of Black Youths in Canada**
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9 +A nuanced understanding of the factors influencing Black youths’ mental health and well-being and opportunities for Black youth to optimize their mental health outcomes were sought through this study. 99 Black youths participated in either an individual interview or a conversation café. These conversations unearthed a range of positive, negative, and systemic factors that influence the mental health experiences and outcomes of Black Albertan youth. The dominant factors that contribute to mental health problems were identified as racial discrimination, intergenerational gap in families, microaggression and stigma, academic expectations, financial stress, lack of identity, previous traumatic events, and religion. A sense of accomplishment, openness about mental health, positive relationships, sense of community, and spirituality were seen positive contributors to Black youth mental health. Dr. Salami will discuss the implications of these research results and their specific relevance for stakeholders, emphasizing the importance of more equitable approaches and responses to the mental health realities of Black youth in Alberta.
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15 +**Stepping up to COVID-19: Mental Health Support for Neurodiverse Children and Families during the Pandemic and Beyond**
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17 +I-InTERACT-North is an evidence-based positive parenting program that was created to address the mental health needs of parents of children with early brain injury and neurodevelopmental conditions. In response to our COVID-19 implementation experiences, we transitioned from a one-size-fits all full program delivery, to a novel stepped-care approach. Stepped care involves providing psychological support from the least to the most intensive, using self-led materials (i.e., podcasts) to more guided and 1:1 supportive care, which is matched to the family’s needs. In this presentation, Dr. Williams will describe the journey of the I-InTERACT-North program and its families and the results of its transition to a stepped-care service. She will also illustrate the value of patient-oriented research partnerships, strategies and next steps in wider-scale children’s mental health program scalability beyond the COVID-19 crisis.
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23 +**Towards Disability Inclusive Policy Design: Lessons from the COVID-19 Pandemic**
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25 +Youth with disabilities and their caregivers are an at-risk population in the COVID-19 pandemic whose mental health has been disproportionately impacted by the policy measures adopted in response. Unfortunately, there is inadequate data collection and insufficient emergency preparedness planning and response for people with disabilities. This presentation will highlight policy responses established during the COVID-19 outbreak in Canada and internationally that promote resilience and address mental health challenges and needs of youth with disabilities and their families. Dr. Zwicker will share findings from interviews with youth and caregivers on their experiences with COVID-19 policies. These critical findings will generate knowledge to enhance disability inclusion in future public health emergencies being implemented for youth with disability and their caregivers.
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2 +[[**Click here to register for the live webinar on May 11, 2022 at 11:00am ET.**>>url:]]
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1 +**Dr. Bukola Salami** is the Director of Intersections of Gender Signature Area at the Office of Vice President Research and an Associate Professor at the Faculty of Nursing, University of Alberta. Her research program focuses on immigrant wellbeing and Black peoples health. She has been involved in over 75 funded studies in this area. She is an Associate Editor of the Canadian Medical Association Journal (CMAJ). She is an advisory board member of the CIHR Institute for Human Development, Child and Youth Health. Dr. Salami has received several awards for research excellence and community engagement. In 2020, she became a recipient of the Sigma Theta Tau International Honor Society International Nurse Researcher Hall of Fame, the highest research award in nursing. In 2021, she became a Fellow of the Canadian Academy of Nursing.
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4 +**Dr. Tricia Williams** received her PhD in Clinical Developmental Psychology at York University. She completed her Postdoctoral fellowships in health psychology at SickKids and clinical neuropsychology at Alberta Children’s Hospital in Calgary. Dr. Williams is a board-certified Clinical Neuropsychologist and Paediatric Subspecialist through the American Board of Professional Psychology (ABPP). Currently, Dr. Williams is a Clinical Neuropsychologist and Health Clinician-Scientist at SickKids in the Division of Neurology. In her clinical role, she leads the Neonatal Neuropsychological services for assessment and consultation for children and families following neonatal brain injury and associated medical conditions. As a Health Clinician-Scientist, Director of the SickKids NeuroOutcomes lab, and co-chair of the NeuroOutcomes Family Advisory Committee, Williams’ research focuses on neuropsychological outcomes following early brain injury and the importance of support.
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7 +**Dr. Jennifer Zwicker** is Director of Health Policy at the School of Public Policy, Associate Professor at University of Calgary, Canada Research Chair (II) in Disability Policy for Children and Youth and Deputy Scientific Officer for Kids Brain Health Network. Her research assesses interventions and informs policy around allocation of funding, services, and supports for youth with disabilities and their families. Strong stakeholder and government collaboration has been critical in the translation of peer-reviewed publications to policy papers, op-eds and briefing notes for provincial and federal ministries and senate committees. Her work recently informed the Canadian Academy of Health Sciences National Autism Strategy Working Group and Royal Society of Canada Expert Working Group to develop disability inclusive policy during the COVID-19 pandemic. She has been recognized for her policy leadership as an Action Canada Alumni, Governor General Leadership Forum, and Canada’s Top 40 Under 40.