CTV News Londons reports that a newly released study on the well-being and health of Canadian children shows high rates of suicide, child abuse, and mental health issues.
The report, created by Children First Canada in concert with the O’Brien Institute for Public Health, compiles data on health and well-being indicators from obesity to poverty. The data is obtained from several major organizations including Statistics Canada and the Canadian Institute of Health Information.
The report urges the government at all levels to do more to ensure that children are happy in healthy in Canada.
Canada’s Known Around the World as a “Happy” Country, So Why Is the State of Children’s Well-Being So Poor?
Canada is well-known around the world as one of the countries that has the highest level of happiness among its citizens. In the famous World Happiness Report, Canada took the number seven spot.
In spite of this, the new data on children’s physical and mental health suggests that children may be worse off than the overall population.
Sara Austin, lead director of Children First, said that said that “there’s a big disconnect between the well-being of our children and the well-being of our nation.”
“Canada’s ranked the fifth-most prosperous nation in the world, yet when it comes to the well-being of children, we fall far behind.
“Whether we’re talking infant mortality or accidents or mental health concerns, all these statistics are deeply disturbing,”
In fact, this finding has been acknowledged by some international organizations, such as a UNICEF study on children’s well-being that ranked 41 Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development countries, placing Canada 25th on the list.
Mental Health Issues
Austin also said that her organization’s report revealed the troubling state of children’s mental health, as a number of markers showed mental health to be ‘an area of increasing urgency.’
For instance, the number of mental-health caused hospitalizations for those five to 24 increase 66 percent over the last decade, and the number of hospitalizations jumped 55 percent over the same time frame.
Some of that increase, however, could be due to the fact that mental health issues have been more widely accepted in society as valid medical problems, as a result of movements such as that represented by Bell’s #LetsTalk.
Although, CTV reports that Dr. Peter Szatmari, Chief of the Child and Youth Mental Health Collaborative between Sick Kids Hospital and the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health at the University of Toronto, says the high prevalence of mental health issues in kids was documented as early as 1987.
He added that Canada has done little to combat the problem.
16,291 Mental-Health Related Hospitalizations in Ontario in 2016
There were few statistics that isolated only children, as most reported data for those under 18 years of age. Austin said this represents a failing in the country’s ability to understand the state of children’s health and well-being.
The report found that Ontario had the most mental-health related emergency visits and hospitalizations. In 2016, 16,291 children were hospitalized.
Dr. Szatmari said that this is a well-established trend.
He also affirmed the hypothesis that Canada’s children are worse off than many developed countries, saying that the increase in hospital visits is “out of proportion to any global trend.”
Szatmari also said that there is a lack of options for kids to deal with their mental health issues in their communities: “we’re not giving kids the tools to cope with these things when they’re minor,” he said. “We’re a crisis-driven health care system, we’re not a public health system.”
Canada’s Child Suicide Rate Is in the Top Five Highest in the World
The lack of support may be causing children to commit suicide. Austin added that suicide is the second-most common cause of death among children in Canada. Moreover, our child suicide rate is in the top five highest in the world.
Child abuse is also a contributing factor. Austin said that one in three Canadians report having been the victims of child abuse when they were young. She said the scale of the issue makes it a “public health crisis.”
“These issues are all interconnected,” she said. “…(they) all tie back to lots of related causes around poverty, around abuse, and the systemic underinvestment in the health and well-being of our children.”
Child Health Problems in Nunavut
Children in Nunavut suffer from a number of health problems that don’t afflict children in the provinces or other territories to the same degree.
The infant mortality rate in the province is 17.1 per 1,000, compared to 3.5 in 1,000 in British Columbia.
University of British Columbia researcher Sorcha Collins reportedly said that there are ‘numerous social and systemic factors that contribute to the problem,’ including air quality, infenctions, housing, nutrition, and health care access.
“If you asked different people in the North what the greatest impact would be, they probably would all give you a different answer in terms of what they’ve been experiencing,” Collins said. “I don’t know what the answer is in terms of improving things.”