Nfld. & Labrador

St. John's psychologist gets anxious kids outdoors — and off their screens

Dr. Florence Strang says the health-care system is not meeting young people's needs.

Dr. Florence Strang says health-care system not meeting young people's needs

Registered psychologist Florence Stang helps children deal with anxiety. (Paula Gale/ CBC)

A St. John's psychologist is helping young people and their families cope with anxiety at a camp that gets them outdoors and off their phones and tablets.

"It's always been my mandate to help children and teach them coping skills, and I think the health-care system is not meeting the demands that are out there," said psychologist Florence Strang.

"Through my private practice — and there are lots of other psychologists — we are offering diagnostic and treatment programs for children."

It's a problem she knows first-hand.

"Anxiety has always existed but we didn't have the names for it back in the day," .

"When I was a child I was having panic attacks and having high anxiety, and nobody really knew what was happening. In fact, it wasn't until I went to university and did my first psychology course that I realized I had an anxiety disorder."

Strang says the trouble she suffered has become more common.

You need to allow some downtime for kids​​​​​​.- Florence Strang

"It was around but not to the extent that it is today," she said. "There are a lot of different factors — a combination of genetic and environmental factors."

Strang believes screen time is one of those factors. Every minute spent on a device is a minute they're not out running around, she said.

"Even when they are involved in play, it's very much structured. I see kids that are stressed out because they are involved in so much extracurricular that they do not have time to just be kids," she said.

"You also need to allow some downtime for kids."

The Canadian Mental Health association says 10 to 20 per cent of children in Canada are affected by a mental illness or a mental health disorder.

Strang says the association also says only one in five children who need treatment for mental illness actually receive it.

Years for treatment

Furthermore, the wait list for those who get help is long. Strang says those patients sometimes wait years for treatment in Newfoundland and Labrador.

Strang's private clinic is trying to bring those people and their families some relief, with a two-day camp this weekend that teaches coping skills and relaxation techniques to kids aged seven to 11.

"So we are, through my clinic Mindful Matters, offering more and more of these diagnoses, treatments and programs for kids to help them deal with these problems," she told CBC's St. John's Morning Show.

"There are a lot of techniques and strategies that have been proven to calm anxiety, such as proper breathing, mindfulness and cognitive behavioural therapy," she said.

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