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

(File photo)
Poverty reduction survey identifies 10 poverty themes

Poverty reduction plan will be finalized in July 2021

Nanaimo-Ladysmith MP Paul Manly says he has no intentions of leaving the Green Party. (House of Commons image)
Island Green MPs have “no intention” of leaving the party after ‘heartbreaking’ departure

Manly, May only remaining Green MPs after Jenica Atwin left for the Liberals over internal disputes

New COVID-19 cases on Vancouver Island by local health area for the week of May 30-June 5. (B.C. Centre for Disease Control image)
COVID-19 cases drop again almost everywhere on Vancouver Island

Nanaimo had four new cases last week, down from 22 the week before

Justine Keefer’s Cedar Elementary School Grade 6/7 class put together a student paper, as part of a school project. Pictured here Andrew Gregory, left, Felix Leduc, Addison Armstrong, Lucia Walker and Anise Dick. (Karl Yu/News Bulletin)
Cedar Elementary School students create their own newspaper

Grade 6/7 class publishes Wolf Pack News as part of language arts and social studies

Évangeline Laforest and Oscar McClements’ invention La Méduse (the Jellyfish) removes oil from the ocean. The invention was one of 15 out of 700 inventions submitted to the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada’s Little Inventors contest. (Cole Schisler photo)
‘Little Inventors’ from Ladysmith showcased in national science challenge

Évangeline Laforest and Oscar McClements were one of 15 finalists in the Little Inventors Challenge

At an outdoor drive-in convocation ceremony, Mount Royal University bestows an honorary Doctor of Laws on Blackfoot Elder and residential school survivor Clarence Wolfleg in Calgary on Tuesday, June 8, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
‘You didn’t get the best of me’: Residential school survivor gets honorary doctorate

Clarence Wolfleg receives honorary doctorate from Mount Royal University, the highest honour the school gives out

The Great Ogopogo Bathtub Race has been held in Summerland as a fundraising event. Do you know which Canadian city introduced this sport? (Black Press file photo)
QUIZ: A summer’s day at the water

How much do you know about boats, lakes and water?

Two-year-old Ivy McLeod laughs while playing with Lucky the puppy outside their Chilliwack home on Thursday, June 10, 2021. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
VIDEO: B.C. family finds ‘perfect’ puppy with limb difference for 2-year-old Ivy

Ivy has special bond with Lucky the puppy who was also born with limb difference

A million-dollar ticket was sold to an individual in Vernon from the Lotto Max draw Friday, June 11, 2021. (Photo courtesy of BCLC)
Lottery ticket worth $1 million sold in Vernon

One lucky individual holds one of 20 tickets worth $1 million from Friday’s Lotto Max draw

“65 years, I’ve carried the stories in my mind and live it every day,” says Jack Kruger. (Athena Bonneau)
‘Maybe this time they will listen’: Survivor shares stories from B.C. residential school

Jack Kruger, living in Syilx territory, wasn’t surprised by news of 215 children’s remains found on the grounds of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School

A logging truck carries its load down the Elaho Valley near in Squamish, B.C. in this file photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chuck Stoody
Squamish Nation calls for old-growth logging moratorium in its territory

The nation says 44% of old-growth forests in its 6,900-square kilometre territory are protected while the rest remain at risk

Flowers and cards are left at a makeshift memorial at a monument outside the former Kamloops Indian Residential School to honour the 215 children whose remains are believed to have been discovered buried near the city in Kamloops, B.C., on Monday, May 31, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
‘Pick a Sunday:’ Indigenous leaders ask Catholics to stay home, push for apology

Indigenous leaders are calling on Catholics to stand in solidarity with residential school survivors by not attending church services

“They will never be forgotten, every child matters,” says Sioux Valley Chief Jennifer Bone in a video statement June 1. (Screen grab)
104 ‘potential graves’ detected at site of former residential school in Manitoba

Sioux Valley Dakota Nation working to identify, repatriate students buried near former Brandon residential school

Most Read