OTTAWA – An Ottawa pediatrician is urging the Ontario government to reopen schools for in-person learning across the province, calling the situation a “crisis in mental, physical and school health.”
Dr. Jane Liddle said that with schools closed for Ontario’s two million students since mid-April, the problems facing young people have worsened.
“We’ve had a 200% increase in mental health crises, whether it’s suicide attempts, eating disorders, substance abuse, I mean it all has physical consequences. [as well]Liddle told Newstalk 580 CFRA on Sunday.
“We need the kids to go back to school yesterday,” she said.
“We have seen a significant increase in obesity, an increase in health problems related to it. We are also seeing the reverse, linked to the mental health crisis, a serious escalation of eating disorders.
Liddle said without school, children lose valuable development in an impossible environment, with isolation and loss of social engagement being the main drivers of mental health problems. All this on top of an increase in screen time.
“The loss of the things that make children happy; their sports, their peers… they’ve lost all their extracurricular activities.
She said conflicts at home have also intensified as parents try to do their best to do their own work while being both a parent and a teacher, with this stress at home being an additional problem for children.
“The conflict in the homes right now is just nasty.”
Liddle said that for those between 1st and 3rd year all of this affects the “foundation” years and that means the foundation is not being built properly.
“These children have lost their foundations, these houses will be built and they will collapse and they are collapsing now,” she said.
“People say, ‘Well the kids are resilient’. I’m sorry, it’s long gone. These children are suffering and we have to get them back to school. “
Liddle is part of the Ottawa Community Pediatricians Network, a group of 70 local doctors who came together near the start of the pandemic to share practical information, and also joined the Canadian Pediatric Society this week by signing an open letter urging the province to prioritize reopening. schools.
The letter, addressed to Premier Doug Ford and other provincial officials, read: “School closures and the resulting social isolation for the health and well-being of children and youth have become unmanageable. ignore.
“Getting Ontario students back into the classroom for the remainder of the school year and for summer learning needs to be a priority now.”
Dr. David Williams, Ontario’s chief medical officer of health, said this week the province was in a tough spot trying to balance the reopening and the risks of COVID-19 with the mental health of students.
He said he insisted school boards plan to reopen, but did not provide a timeline for when that might happen. The COVID-19 science advisory table said schools could reopen in a “manageable” fashion.
Dr Sumon Chakrabarti, an infectious disease doctor at Mississauga Hospital, told CFRA on Saturday he saw no reason schools couldn’t reopen, but said he understood the need to some caution following the third wave.
“In most situations, schools are not transmission engines, but when we were up to it and we were up to the third wave, when you have so much community transmission, schools can contribute a little. so it made sense to shut them down, ”he said.
Now that Ontario is “well on the downside,” it makes sense to open schools, he said, even if it’s for five or six weeks.
“That would be huge … I really think the government should reopen the schools for the rest of the year.”
Liddle said even a few weeks in the classroom would be hugely beneficial for children in today’s environment.
“Children need hope; they are absolutely desperate right now. They are completely demotivated and you know that these mental health issues that we are talking about are going to have an impact for life.