Study On Adolescent Mental Health

November 1, 2022

Daniel Cavanagh Bermuda November 2022The Bermuda Hospitals Board [BHB] has approved a local study on adolescent mental health, which “seeks to better understand how common symptoms of anxiety and depression are in Bermuda’s students.”

A spokesperson said, “The survey study will also investigate teens’ attitudes towards seeking help for mental health and what services could support them to get better. Knowing this data can better shape how mental health services in Bermuda approach the adolescent community to get help for their mental health.

“The study forms the basis of the thesis for PhD Student, Mr. Daniel Cavanagh, a high school teacher who has been working at Warwick Academy since 2019, who is collaborating with local Psychologist, Dr Shawnee Basden, based at the Bermuda Hospitals Board.

“The project also involves researchers Laura Hart and Nicola Reavley from the University of Melbourne in Australia, where Mr. Cavanagh is completing his PhD. Research assistants, Azaria Smith and Sarah Maybury, from Solstice are also set to be involved.

“The research project was started by Mr. Cavanagh to better help the students in his classroom, especially the ones that seemed to be struggling with the pandemic’s effects on their mental health. The more mental health professionals he spoke to, the more it was clear that the community could really benefit from having this type of research.”

Mr. Cavanagh said, “From the classroom to the broader community, I’ve seen how anyone connected to adolescent mental health in Bermuda could benefit from high quality data, especially when we are facing unprecedented mental health challenges.”

The spokesperson said, “A recent study found that by the end of 2020, global estimates of adolescent anxiety and depression symptoms had doubled since the pandemic began, and that these numbers were increasing the longer the pandemic continued. The results from the study suggested that 1 in 4 youth globally are experiencing depression, while 1 in 5 youth are experiencing anxiety.

“In the classroom, this means around 4 to 5 students will be experiencing significant levels of anxiety or depression, but we don’t know if they are receiving appropriate help, or how we can better support them.”

Child psychiatrist Dr. Peter Yates said, “Since the pandemic started there has been a surge in the mental health needs of children of all ages in Bermuda and in the rest of the world. The effects of social isolation, quarantine, and the overall stress and adversity related to the pandemic appear to have had a much larger negative impact than the infection itself and especially on adolescents.”

The spokesperson said, “While we know the pandemic has had an impact on adolescent mental health, there is a lack of research in Bermuda. At the 2021 Bermuda Mental Health Foundation virtual conference, Mr. Cavanagh gave the keynote presentation highlighting the need for research to be conducted on island that acknowledges’ Bermuda’s unique history, geography and culture.

“In line with international best-practice, the research team will invite schools in Bermuda to be host-sites for the study. In participating schools, all students from M1-S4 [Years 7-13] will be invited to take part in an online and anonymous survey while under supervision during the school day. Parent and student information sessions will be held prior to the survey, so questions can be asked directly of the research team. Information will also be sent home to parents / caregivers in the weeks leading up to the survey.

“The mental health community in Bermuda see the value of this research. The team of psychologists at Solstice, including Executive Director, Dr. Eloïse Pitts Crick, have supported this research from its inception.”

Dr. Eloïse Pitts Crick said, “Having this data will improve the way mental health professionals assess, care and advocate for adolescents in Bermuda. We are excited to support this research as it can help us better plan mental health care on the island.”

Family Centre Executive Director Dr. Sandy De Silva said, “the data generated by Mr. Cavanagh and Dr. Basden’s research will be useful in how Family Centre can better advocate for use of our services by young people and their families. For example, information on whom young people prefer to talk out their issues to, and how they would like to learn about mental health resources can help tailor how we educate about our services.”

The spokesperson said, “Dr. Basden, who is also one of Bermuda’s two Mental Health First Aid coordinators, explains that this research is a necessary first step toward improving adolescent mental health on the island.”

Dr. Basden said, “The data collected from this study can inform policy decisions and help practitioners, parents and educators to best care for their young people. In the Mental Health First Aid training course, we teach participants to look out for the signs and symptoms of psychological distress, as well as to challenge stigmatic beliefs – this research will help us in trying to teach adults how to recognize the signs and symptoms of mental health in adolescents.”

The intention is for the research to be conducted across all middle and high schools in Bermuda. If you would like to know more, contact the research team and watch out for information coming to your local school. You can email Mr. Daniel Cavanagh at or Dr. Shawnee Basden at for more information. This study is being supported by the Durhager Family Programme Fund and the Uplands Discretionary Trust.

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