Concerns rise over mental health of children amid COVID-19 pandemic

CALGARY (CityNews) – You might think your kids are concerned with math or making friends when they head back to class this September, but a report is highlighting the mental load students are carrying into the new school year.

The Raising Canada 2020 report shows children are struggling across the board.

“And what we’re seeing in the data is a confirmation of grave concerns around a spike in child poverty and food insecurity, in particular,” Sara Austin, CEO, Children First Canada, says. “Very grave concerns around the mental health of children, as well as children’s physical health, drops in vaccination rates.”

Austin notes the report reveals 57 per cent of children said their mental health is either somewhat or much worse than before the pandemic.

“Suicide is now the leading cause of death for children ages 10 to 14,” she says, adding the frightening statistic is just one of the many concerning facts to come out of this report.

Read the full report:

Raising+Canada+Report_Final 2020

The Kids Help Phone has also reported an increase in conversations about physical, sexual, and emotional abuse.

“We’re anticipating a spike in reports of child abuse because, now, kids will be seen by trusted adults, and there’s an opportunity to take action. But it also means there’s going to be huge demand for support,” Austin says.

When it comes to physical health, it’s not much better. Less than five per cent of children and under one per cent of youth are meeting the physical activity benchmark.

She’s calling on the federal government to put Children First Canada in its economic recovery plans, as treating these traumas early will make a big difference down the road.

“We know, for instance, that things like poverty and abuse cause toxic stress for children that impacts their brain development and will make them much more likely to experience chronic health issues, like depression, anxiety, addictions,” Austin says.

The organization notes it’s important for parents to provide a stable environment at home, to check in with their kids, and watch for behaviour changes as students head back to school.

If you or someone you know needs help, you can call the Kids Help Phone at 1.800.668.6868 or text 686868.

You can also contact Crisis Services Canada at 1.833.456.4566 or text 45645.

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