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Canadian parents concerned but complacent about children's mental health: RBC survey

TORONTO, October 4, 2010— Children's mental health issues are on the minds of a majority of Canadian parents (54 per cent), with one-in-ten (11 per cent) considering themselves very knowledgeable about the topic, according to a new survey on children's mental health released today by RBC. The survey also found that one-in-five (22 per cent) Canadian parents are concerned about a mental health-related issue with one of their own children.

"As parents, we're quick to take action if our child breaks a limb or has a physical illness. We know what to do and where to go for information. However, it's a different story altogether when a child has a mental illness," said Jamie Anderson, deputy chair of RBC Capital Markets and executive champion of the RBC Children's Mental Health Project. "There's no definitive guide to help parents who are struggling with kids' mental health issues and there is no other illness that we try to treat by hoping it will go away over time."

With 20 per cent of Canadians experiencing mental illness during their lifetime, many disorders begin in childhood or adolescence. If the signs of mental illness are recognized early and appropriate interventions are taken, children have a much greater chance to grow up to lead happy, productive lives.

The findings are part of an Ipsos Reid survey commissioned by the RBC Children's Mental Heath Project, a multi-year philanthropic commitment to support community-based and hospital programs that reduce stigma, provide early intervention and increase public awareness about children's mental health issues.

Canadian parents also face a lack of a definitive source of information on children's mental health issues. The survey revealed that for respondents who have a child who has been diagnosed with or has shown signs of a mental illness, the majority (54 per cent) agree that it is "terrible" trying to navigate the health and social services sector for help and information. Of this group, four-in-ten say they are frustrated that there is no single place to get information on children's mental health.

While parents expressed frustration about access to credible information, more than two-third of respondents (69 per cent) agreed that it is important to be able to obtain information anonymously so that their child will not be stigmatized, creating further challenges to facilitating early intervention.

Among those who have sought information, doctors (82 per cent) and the internet (79 per cent) were the two main sources to which these parents turned. However, the internet dropped drastically in the ranking, to only 19 per cent, when the same respondents were asked which sources they trusted the most. Doctors (74 per cent) and health-related organizations (69 per cent) were considered the most trusted sources. Most Canadian parents would reach out to between three and five sources before they feel confident about information they found.

"We know that for more than 70 per cent of adults living with mental health problems, symptoms developed in childhood or early adolescence, so it's crucial to intervene then," said Louise Bradley, president and CEO of the Mental Health Commission of Canada. "Results from this important survey will help inform policy-makers in Canada about better ways to deliver mental health care to children and youth. The findings show that parents can't always access the information and services they need, and rely heavily upon their family doctors for help. We are indeed discovering that our health care system needs new ways to support families and physicians and we are pleased to work alongside organizations like the RBC to shed light on these issues as we look for solutions."

"There are a lot of good organizations in Canada providing programs and a wealth of information about children's mental health issues, but for parents who are in crisis and struggling to find help, access to credible, easy-to-find resources can be a lifesaver. That's why RBC is focused on supporting a network of organizations that can be trusted sources of information," noted Anderson.

Other key findings in the survey include:

  • Of parents who spend time thinking about their children's mental health, one third (32 per cent) said either a personal experience in their immediate family or media coverage prompted their concern.
  • Respondents said the top three children's mental health issues facing parents today are attention deficit disorders (61 per cent), behaviour disorders (55 per cent) and depression (41 per cent).
  • Anxiety (30 per cent) was near the bottom of the list, even though it is the most common mental health problem facing children and youth and Canada today.

These are some of the findings of the first RBC Children's Mental Health Project poll conducted by Ipsos Reid between September 3 and September 13, 2010. This online survey of 2,075 Canadian parents with children aged 18 years or younger was conducted via the Ipsos I-Say Online Panel. The results are based on a sample where quota sampling and weighting are employed to balance demographics and ensure that the sample's composition reflects that of the actual Canadian population according to Census data.

For more information or to apply for a grant, visit www.rbc.com/childrensmentalhealth.

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Media contact:
Jackie Braden, RBC Brand Communications, 416-974-1724

Dane Gergovich, MediaProfile, 416-342-1816, Dane.gergovich@mediaprofile.com

For full tabular results, please see the Ipsos Reid website at www.ipsos.ca.


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10/03/2010 18:15:02