The global reputation Canada has had so far that it’s a healthy and safe place to raise children is now hit by statistics that found life is not that pink: there are high rates of suicide, child abuse, and mental health issues, writes a report conducted by Children First Canada and the O’Brien Institute for Public Health.
Child Welfare in Canada
The picture painted by this report is grim, taking into account many health markers like infant mortality, obesity, poverty rates and so on.
The study gathered data from many research organizations, among them being Statistics Canada and the Canadian Institute of Health Information. Its results were troubling, and researchers warn all orders of government to immediately act and make sure the children benefit from Canada’s wealth and prosperity.
The lead director of Children First, Sara Austin, explains:
“Whether we’re talking infant mortality or accidents or mental health concerns, all these statistics are deeply disturbing. 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,” concluding that “there’s a big disconnect between the well-being of our children and the well-being of our nation.”
On UNICEF’s ranking list of 41 Organization of Economic Co-Operation and Development countries, Canada was in the 25th place when it came to assessing the children’s welfare.
Austin said that many research agencies found troubling information on kids health in the past years, and mental health was one emerging area that needed immediate urgency.
Over the last decade, hospitalizations related to mental health issues for people between 5 and 24 years old reached 66%, and the number of hospitalizations grew to 55% in the same period.
Ontario has seen the highest number of visits to the emergency room resulted from mental health issues – in 2016, 16,291 children were hospitalized – double than in Quebec, which was second in rank of such emergencies.
Austin concludes that kids seek help in hospitals because they don’t have other options in their communities. More worryingly is that the suicide numbers keep growing, and it’s the second-most common cause of children’s death, ranking Canada among the top five countries in child suicide rate. Austin explained that the issues 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.”
One in three Canadians reported a form of child abuse before turning 16.
Infant mortality places Canada in the bottom third of all developed nations, with a national average of five deaths per 1,000 people. However, it is unevenly distributed across the country – 3.5 per 1,000 in BC, but 17.7 pet 1,000 in Nunavut.
The conclusion Austin reached was that the federal government must address the system’s shortcomings by creating a children’s commission, establishing a children’s charter of rights and disclose children-related spending to the public.
Andre Blair s is the lead editor for Advocator.ca. He holds a B.A. in Psychology from the University of Toronto, and a Master of Science in Public Health (M.S.P.H.) from the School of Public Health, Department of Health Administration, at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Andre specializes in environmental health, but writes on a variety of issues.