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Child Development, Major Disruptive Events—Public Health Implications  

Tracy Vaillancourt and Peter Szatmari

The COVID-19 pandemic has upended nearly all the safeguarding systems in the lives of children and youth, such as family life, school, extracurricular activities, sports, unstructured social opportunities, health care, and church. With many of the typical promotive and protective factors disrupted all at once, and for so long, the mental health of children and youth has deteriorated in many areas, but not all, and for many children and youth, but not all. It is important to acknowledge, however, that the mental health of children and youth was in crisis before the pandemic, with 1 in 7 children and youth worldwide having a mental disorder. Given the continued decline in this area of health, children and youth may well be on the cusp of a “generational catastrophe” that could involve lasting harms if immediate action is not taken. Of particular concern are marginalized and vulnerable children and youth—they are the ones unduly enduring the brunt of this global crisis. Accordingly, child and youth mental health recovery must be prioritized, along with the reduction of inequity within and across countries. A commitment to public health strategies that never include harming children and youth as a tolerated side effect must also be made.