Kids are in Crisis – Canada’s Top Advocates and Experts Unite to Declare #codePINK

Children’s hospitals report 100% increase of mental-health related admissions

Canada’s top children’s hospitals and advocacy organizations are uniting to declare #codePINK and raise the alarm about the current mental and health crisis facing children and young people across the country. The term “Code Pink” is used to declare a pediatric emergency, and the campaign is calling on the federal and provincial/territorial governments to act immediately to address this emergency.

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 numbers are staggering:

Suicide attempt admissions have increased by 100% on average during the pandemic (Children’s Healthcare Canada), and McMaster Children’s Hospital reports a 200% increase. 

Admissions for substance-use disorders have increased by 200% compared to last year and the use of potentially deadly opioids has also increased (Children’s Healthcare Canada).

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. (Canada’s Children’s Hospital Foundations)

More children and youth are seeking emergency care. There has been a 61% increase in ER visits among children and youth for mental health conditions over the last decade (Canadian Institute for Health Information). The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids) reports a further 25% increase during the pandemic.

Surgical backlogs have increased by 24% compared to the same time last year (SickKids) and surgeons are now suggesting it could take up to three years to address the backlog (CMAJ).

Child abuse rates have risen sharply, with a 100% increase in cases of infants presenting with fractures and head trauma since September 2020 (CHEO).

More details can be found at ChildrenFirstCanada.org.

The #codePINK campaign has been organized by Children First Canada, a national charitable organization that serves as a strong, effective and independent voice for all 8 million children in Canada. Children’s health organizations from across the country have joined this effort, including Alberta Children’s Hospital Research Institute, Canada’s Children’s Hospital Foundations, CHEO, Children’s Healthcare Canada, Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital, McMaster Children’s Hospital, The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids) and the Young Canadians Roundtable on Health. 

“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,” says 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.” 

Children First Canada and its partners are calling for an urgent meeting of Canada’s First Ministers to take action to ensure children receive immediate and sustained support for their mental and physical health. This includes safely reopening schools, camps, parks and other recreational facilities as quickly as possible, scaling up virtual care programs, reducing backlogs for surgeries and rehabilitation, investing in new models of mental health programs to meet the urgent and rising demands, and planning now for a safe return to school in the fall.

Quotes from supporters of the #codePINK campaign are included below.

If you would like more information about #codePINK or would like to coordinate an interview with organizer Sara Austin from Children First Canada, or any of the other signatories below, please contact:

Taylor Jantzi

Global Public Affairs

Tjantzi@globalpublic.com

#codePINK Campaign Partner Quotes

“We are seeing a crisis among young Canadians that cannot be ignored. Children across Canada are being subjected to significant developmental challenges due to the lack of schooling, sports, recreational programs and camps.  And this is not anecdotal. Our hospitals are filling with new mental health cases, and already long waitlists for surgeries and medical treatment are growing further. We cannot afford to treat children’s access to care as elective – it is essential for their bodies and minds to grow and develop. We have a moral and economic imperative to do more right now.  Our collective future depends on it.” Kathleen Taylor, immediate Past Chair of SickKids Foundation, and Founding Visionary of The Prosperity Project

“Children’s health and well-being are on the line now and their development into the next generation of adults is at stake if we don’t act immediately. As health-care providers, we are stretching ourselves to ensure not one single child falls through the cracks, but we know our efforts are not enough. The time has come for rapid and sustained government funding to not only fill the gaps but build a better system for children in a post-pandemic world.” – Dr. Ronald Cohn, President & CEO, SickKids

“Children and youth have experienced the pandemic in unique and relentless ways since day one. Prior to COVID-19, Canada had already slipped to 30th out of 38 developed countries for child health and well-being. Kids must be at the centre of Canada’s COVID-19 recovery plans, for the sake of their futures and for the sake of our country’s.” – Alex Munter, President & CEO, CHEO 

“We recognize that the Federal government identified funding related to virtual care broadly for the Canadian population. It is important to emphasize that children’s hospitals treat the highest acuity seen damaged by the lack of social and peer interaction during the pandemic. They are regressing in their developmental milestones, social skills and mental health. Whole families are experiencing unimaginable stress causing enormous risk to both their physical and psychological wellness. Without urgent intervention a generation of these children who are already incredibly vulnerable risk even greater harm.” – Julia Hanigsberg, president and CEO, Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital

“There was a crisis in mental health services even before the pandemic and now we are seeing even higher demand for services and more serious illness in children and youth.  Long wait times for mental health treatment programs has meant too many children, youth and families presenting in crisis at hospital.  New funding is urgently needed to expand community mental health treatment, take pressure off hospitals, and more importantly, to save lives.”  Kimberly Moran, CEO, Children’s Mental Health Ontario

“Many of our children are in crisis. Prolonged social isolation, school closures and limited opportunities for interaction outside of the home are resulting in an alarming rise of patients coming to hospital with serious self-harm and mental wellness concerns. As a tireless advocate for child and youth well-being, McMaster Children’s Hospital supports the call for strategic and sustainable investments to help reverse these concerning trends, and further protect young people from the devastating mental health impacts brought on by the pandemic. –  Bruce Squires, President, McMaster Children’s Hospital 

“As Chair and Vice-Chair of Children First Canada’s Youth Advisory Council we represent droves of young people across the country who have been forced to face unparalleled challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic. We call #codePINK for the thousands of our peers who have been hospitalized due to new mental health concerns, for the hundreds of students who have dropped out of pursuing their education due to the challenges of distance learning, for our peers who quietly tolerate relentless abuse in their homes and for all of our peers who feel utterly lost with no idea what their futures will look like anymore.”  Kamil Kanji & Mégane Jacques, Chair & Vice-Chair, Youth Advisory Committee, Children First Canada

While youth have shown tremendous resiliency during the COVID-19 pandemic, continuing to count on youth’s resiliency to carry them through adversity is detrimental and not sustainable. The Young Canadians Roundtable on Health and The Sandbox Project implore all decision-makers to act now to prioritize youth well-being in the pandemic in order to mitigate and eliminate devastating long-term impacts that will affect the futures of young Canadians and our society as a whole. – Umayangga Yogalingam, Executive Director, Young Canadian’s Health Roundtable

As Chair and Vice-Chair of Children First Canada’s Youth Advisory Council we represent droves of young people across the country who have been forced to face unparalleled challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic. We call #codePINK for the thousands of our peers who have been hospitalized due to new mental health concerns, for the hundreds of students who have dropped out of pursuing their education due to the challenges of distance learning, for our peers who quietly tolerate relentless abuse in their homes and for all of our peers who feel utterly lost with no idea what their futures will look like anymore. – Kamil Kanji & Mégane Jacques, Chair & Vice-Chair, Youth Advisory Committee, Children First Canada