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Children's advocates say COVID-related mental health crisis must be addressed

Last Updated May 20, 2021 at 8:05 am PDT

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Children First Canada launches #codePINK campaign to call for action to address mental health crisis amid pandemic

Children's advocates say federal, provincial governments need to address pandemic impacts on mental health right away

Advocates calling for schools, children's programs to reopen as soon as possible, more support for kids

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – Children’s advocates are calling on federal and provincial governments to address what they say is a mental health crisis emerging from the pandemic.

Children’s hospitals have reported a “100 per cent increase of mental-health related admissions,” according to Children First Canada.

Advocates say the situation is clear: young people across the country have been forced to face unparalleled challenges during over the past year. As a result, their mental state has suffered dramatically.

“School closures, the lack of access to sports and recreational programs, and social isolation have resulted in children being one of the hardest hit populations during the COVID-19 pandemic,” the national advocacy group says, adding “the numbers are staggering.”

Children First Canada says suicide attempt admissions have increased by 100 per cent on average over the past year, and that admissions for substance-use disorders have increased by 200 per cent.

“70% of kids aged 6 to 18 report that the pandemic has harmed their mental health in at least one area, such as anxiety or attention span,” the group adds, citing Canada’s Children’s Hospital Foundation.

It notes the number of children and youth seeking emergency care and child abuse rates have also increased dramatically.

“We’re declaring a #codePINK because kids are in a state of crisis and we are calling for an emergency response. Their physical and mental health needs are escalating daily, and the impacts will be felt for years to come,” said Sara Austin, founder and CEO of Children First Canada. “The crisis is particularly impacting the most vulnerable, including First Nations, Métis and Inuit children, Black and other racialized children, and children and youth with disabilities and complex medical needs.”

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Children First Canada and other groups are calling for a meeting with the prime minister and provincial leaders to take immediate action to get children support, both in the short and long term.

That includes reopening schools, camps, parks, and other recreations as soon as possible, as well as scaling up virtual care programs. Reducing surgery backlogs, and investments into mental health programs are also among proposed solutions.