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

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

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

North Cowichan’s committee of the whole have rejected staff’s recommendation to limit the use of fireworks to Halloween. (File photo)
North Cowichan rejects limiting fireworks to Halloween

Municipality decides staff recommendation would be unpopular

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

CVRD Area E director Alison Nicholson, right, hiked two hours to Waterfall Camp at the Fairy Creek watershed along with Comox town councillor Nicole Minion and Comox Valley Regional District director Daniel Arbour to meet with old-growth logging activists on Monday, June 7. (Submitted)
Cowichan Valley regional director visits Fairy Creek protest camps

‘They clearly communicated that they are committed to what they are doing’

A small pod of Pacific white-sided dolphins pass by close to shore in Campbell River June 16, 2021. Still capture from video courtesy of Kimberly Hart
VIDEO: Dolphin sunset captured from Vancouver Island shore

Spectacular setting for view of travelling pod of Pacific white-sided dolphins

Karl and Stephanie Ann Johanson were thrilled to spot a pair of Sandhill Cranes in the Panama Flats this month, an unusual appearance for such birds. (Photo by Stephanie Ann Johanson)
WATCH: Sandhill cranes an unusual, joyful sight in South Island parkland

These birds don’t often touch down on their way between northern B.C. and Mexico

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

(V.I. Trail/Google Maps)
Now 90% complete, Vancouver Island trail forges new funding parnership

Victoria Foundation takes on Vancouver Island Trail Association; fund valued at $40,000

Police are asking for public assistance in locating Anthony Graham who has been charged with the murders of Kamloops brothers Carlo and Erick Fryer. (RCMP photo)
2 charged, suspect at large in killings of B.C. brothers linked to gang activity: RCMP

Kamloops brothers Erick and Carlo Fryer were found deceased in May on a remote Okanagan road

Albert Health Minister Tyler Shandro and Alberta Premier Jason Kenney unveil an opening sign after speaking about the Open for Summer Plan and next steps in the COVID-19 vaccine rollout, in Edmonton, Friday, June 18, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Alberta 1st province in Canada to lift all COVID-19 public health restrictions

70.2% of eligible citizens 12 and older in the province have received a dose of the vaccine

Fraser Health registered nurse Ramn Manan draws a dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine into a syringe at a walk-up vaccination clinic at Bear Creek Park, in Surrey, B.C., on Monday, May 17, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
‘Honour our fathers’ with COVID-19 vaccine protection, B.C. urges

109 new cases Friday, 75 per cent of 12 and up immunized

Freighters have becomd abundant in the Trincomali Channel on the east side of Thetis Island.
Nanaimo ponders taking on waste from nearby anchored freighters

Vancouver-based Tymac petitioning the Regional District of Nanaimo to accept waste at its landfill

Most Read