Basketball nets have been removed at a school closed due to COVID-19 in Mississauga, Ont., on Tuesday, March 31, 2020. Advocates are mounting a campaign to declare a crisis among Canadian youth as children’s hospitals report a staggering rise in the demand for mental health services during the pandemic.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette

Basketball nets have been removed at a school closed due to COVID-19 in Mississauga, Ont., on Tuesday, March 31, 2020. Advocates are mounting a campaign to declare a crisis among Canadian youth as children’s hospitals report a staggering rise in the demand for mental health services during the pandemic.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette

Advocates say Canada’s youth mental health crisis has ‘life and death’ stakes

#CodePink campaign urges action to combat the havoc the pandemic is wreaking on youth

Advocates are mounting a campaign to declare a crisis among Canadian youth as children’s hospitals report a staggering rise in demand for mental health services during the pandemic.

The #CodePink campaign — named after the medical code for a pediatric emergency — is urging federal and provincial authorities to address the struggles young Canadians face between school closures, restrictions on recreational activities and social isolation.

“We have reached a point where there’s no turning back and the implications that kids are experiencing will be felt now and for many years to come,” says Sara Austin, founder and CEO of Children First Canada, which is leading the campaign launched Wednesday.

“It really is incumbent on all of us as adults, and particularly our government leaders, to take the urgent action that’s required to help our children survive.”

Austin says children have “suffered silently” as the COVID-19 crisis has deprived them of opportunities for emotional, social and physical development. But the statistics speak volumes about the pandemic’s impacts on the next generation’s health and wellbeing, she says.

A survey of 14 children’s hospitals suggests that admissions following suicide attempts doubled on average between March 2020 and January 2021 compared to the same period the year before, according to a report by Children’s Healthcare Canada.

The association also finds that children’s hospitals saw a three-fold increase in admissions related to substance use, and admissions for complex eating disorders rose by 63 per cent.

“We’re talking about issues of life and death,” says Austin. “Our future is in jeopardy.”

Toronto’s Hospital for Sick Children is among the many children’s health organizations backing the #CodePink campaign’s calls for the safe and swift reopening of schools and recreational facilities and increased investment in youth mental health services.

SickKids president and CEO Dr. Ronald Cohn says the hospital’s in-patient mental health unit has been at roughly 130 per cent capacity for several months, and the emergency room has also seen an influx of patients seeking psychological care.

Cohn notes that hospitals tend to treat the most severe cases, so these numbers only offer a glimpse into the full scope of the youth mental health crisis.

“I don’t think there’s a single child that doesn’t in one way or another deal with the pressures of the pandemic,” says Cohn.

“As we get to the other end of this pandemic, I hope that we are not talking about a generation that is at risk…. It’s just going to require a special focus on really making children a priority.”

—Adina Bresge, The Canadian Press

RELATED: How a year of COVID-19 has impacted our mental health

RELATED: No increase in suicide rate in B.C. during worst of the pandemic, says coroner

Coronavirusmental health

Just Posted

The annual Field Day is coming up over June 26 and 27 for local amateur radio operators. File photo
Comox Valley ham radio club having its Field Day on weekend

Club holding separate demonstrations June 26 and 27 instead of meeting as one group

Langley Lake supplies the drinking water for Union Bay. File photo by Bob Ell
Comox Valley board wants to halt Union Bay-area logging plans

Regional district inviting forest company to work on watershed plan

Corwin Fox performs on the grounds of the Courtenay and District Fish & Game Club for a 2021 Vancouver Island MusicFest segment, with the iconic Comox Glacier in the background. The 2021 festival will feature numerous outdoor segments, highlighting the beauty of the Comox Valley. Photo via Island MusicFest
2021 Vancouver Island MusicFest format will showcase the beauty of the Comox Valley

The 2021 Vancouver Island MusicFest -The Virtual Edition - will be like… Continue reading

Black Press file photo
RCMP seek suspect in Vancouver Island-wide crime spree

Crimes stretched from Deep Bay to Qualicum, Ladysmith, Chemainus and Youbou

Things are looking up for Vancouver Island as zero COVID-19 cases have been reported for the first time since October. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Island records zero new COVID-19 cases for the first time since October

For the first time since October, the province is reporting zero new… Continue reading

John Marinus’s daughter, Margaret McCormack, and his wife Denise were out Saturday afternoon to help the Rotary Club of Comox move some tickets for the upcoming Ducky 500, known this year as the John Marinus Memorial Ducky 500. Photo by Mike Chouinard
Rotary Club of Comox Ducky Run tickets still available

Event has been rechristened as the John Marinus Memorial Ducky 500

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Barbara Violo, pharmacist and owner of The Junction Chemist Pharmacy, draws up a dose behind vials of both Pfizer-BioNTech and Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines on the counter, in Toronto, Friday, June 18, 2021. An independent vaccine tracker website founded by a University of Saskatchewan student says just over 20 per cent of eligible Canadians — those 12 years old and above — are now fully vaccinated. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
At least 20% of eligible Canadians fully vaccinated, 75% with one dose: data

Earlier projections for reopening at this milestone didn’t include Delta variant

This undated file photo provided by Ernie Carswell & Partners shows the home featured in the opening and closing scenes of The Brady Bunch in Los Angeles. Do you know the occupation of Mike Brady, the father in this show about a blended family? (Anthony Barcelo/Ernie Carswell & Partners via AP, File)
QUIZ: A celebration of dad on Father’s Day

How much do you know about famous fathers?

Emily Steele holds up a collage of her son, 16-year-old Elijah-Iain Beauregard who was stabbed and killed in June 2019, outside of Kelowna Law Courts on June 18. (Aaron Hemens/Capital News)
Kelowna woman who fatally stabbed teen facing up to 1.5 years of jail time

Her jail sentence would be followed by an additional one to 1.5 years of supervision

Cpl. Scott MacLeod and Police Service Dog Jago. Jago was killed in the line of duty on Thursday, June 17. (RCMP)
Abbotsford police, RCMP grieve 4-year-old service dog killed in line of duty

Jago killed by armed suspect during ‘high-risk’ incident in Alberta

The George Road wildfire near Lytton, B.C., has grown to 250 hectares. (BC Wildfire Service)
B.C. drone sighting halts helicopters fighting 250 hectares of wildfire

‘If a drone collides with firefighting aircraft the consequences could be deadly,’ says BC Wildfire Service

A dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine is pictured at a vaccination site in Vancouver Thursday, March 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
NACI advice to mix vaccines gets varied reaction from AstraZeneca double-dosers

NACI recommends an mRNA vaccine for all Canadians receiving a second dose of a COVID-19 vaccine

A aerial view shows the debris going into Quesnel Lake caused by a tailings pond breach near the town of Likely, B.C., Tuesday, Aug. 5, 2014. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Updated tailings code after Mount Polley an improvement: B.C. mines auditor

British Columbia’s chief auditor of mines has found changes to the province’s requirements for tailings storage facilities

Most Read