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

Shuswap Immigrant Services Society plans to hold a vigil on Friday, June 25 at 8 p.m. to honour the victims of what officials are calling a terrorist attack on five Muslims in London, Ont. (File photo)
Salmon Arm council holds minute of silence to honour victims of Ontario attack

Shuswap Immigrant Services Society plans vigil for Muslim family on June 25, 8 p.m. at McGuire Lake

(Pixabay photo)
Morning Start: Goosebumps helped scare off predators

Your morning start for Tuesday, June 15, 2021

A first-dose mobile vaccination clinic is being held on Tuesday, June 15 from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. at the Salmon Arm fairgrounds, west entrance across from spray park. (Interior Health image)
Location for Salmon Arm’s June 15 COVID-19 mobile vaccine clinic changes slightly

Immunization clinic still at fairgrounds but people attending asked to use different entrance

Felix Haase and Jayme Saretzky staff a pop-up booth to support the Salmon Arm Pride Project on the patio of the newly reopened Wild Craft Mercantile at 121 Shuswap St. on Saturday, June 12, 2021. (Martha Wickett - Salmon Arm Observer)
Wild Craft Mercantile in Salmon Arm holds grand reopening, celebrates Pride month

Store moves from Lakeshore to Shuswap, demonstrates support for Pride project

A City of Salmon Arm vacuum truck cleans out the city storm drain on Hudson Avenue in Salmon Arm Monday morning, June 14 after a crane truck blew a hydraulic line, spewing oil onto the road. (Martha Wickett - Salmon Arm Observer)
Fire trucks called to small oil spill in Salmon Arm

Traffic delayed on Hudson Avenue Monday morning after crane truck blows hydraulic line

People watch a car burn during a riot following game 7 of the NHL Stanley Cup final in downtown Vancouver, B.C., in this June 15, 2011 photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Geoff Howe
10 years ago: Where were you during the 2011 Vancouver Stanley Cup Riots?

Smashed-in storefronts, looting, garbage can fires and overturned cars some of the damage remembered today

Port Alberni court house (Alberni Valley News)
Coroners’ inquest into 2016 death of Port Alberni teen rescheduled for June 21

18-year-old Jocelyn George died of heart failure after spending time in jail cell

Children’s shoes and flowers are shown after being placed outside the Ontario legislature in Toronto on Monday, May 31, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
Ontario commits $10 million to investigate burial sites at residential schools

Truth and Reconciliation Commission identified 12 locations of unmarked burial sites in Ontario

Two hundred and fifteen lights are placed on the lawn outside the Residential School in Kamloops, B.C., Saturday, June, 13, 2021. The remains of 215 children were discovered buried near the former Kamloops Indian Residential School earlier this month. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Days after Kamloops remains discovery, Tk’emlups families gather to unite, move ahead

‘We have to work together because this is going to be setting a precedent for the rest of the country’

In this Saturday, May 29, 2021, file photo, people crowd the Santa Monica Pier in Santa Monica, Calif. California, the first state in America to put in place a coronavirus lockdown, is now turning a page on the pandemic. Most of California’s coronavirus restrictions will disappear Tuesday, June 15, 2021. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes, File)
With COVID tamed, it’s a ‘grand reopening’ in California

No more state rules on social distancing, no more limits on capacity, no more mandatory masks

Montreal Canadiens goaltender Carey Price (31) is scored on by Vegas Golden Knights defenseman Alec Martinez, not pictured, during the second period in Game 1 of an NHL hockey Stanley Cup semifinal playoff series Monday, June 14, 2021, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher)
Habs fall 4-1 to Vegas Golden Knights in Game 1 of NHL semifinal series

Match was Montreal’s first game outside of Canada in 2021

(Dave Ogilvie photo)
One injured after being pinned by fallen forklift near Peachland

West Kelowna emergency crews responded to reports of a person stuck under a forklift

Penticton Overdose Prevention Society co-founders Desiree Franz, Shane Surowski and Stephanie Lines have created the city’s first unsanctioned public overdose prevention site using an old wine-tour bus. The site began operations in June 2021. (Desiree Franz/Facebook)
Volunteers launch Penticton’s first public supervised injection site

2021 is on pace to be the deadliest year for overdoses in Penticton on record

Kelowna-Lake Country MLA Norm Letnick, assistant deputy speaker at the B.C. legislature, presides over committee discussions. The legislature is completing its delayed spring session this week, with most MLAs participating by video conference. (Hansard TV)
B.C.’s daily COVID-19 infections dip below 100 over weekend

Only 68 new cases recorded Monday, four additional deaths

Most Read