Call for Action: Ontario school and activity lockdowns and mental health crisis in kids

Call for Action: Ontario school and activity lockdowns and mental health crisis in kids

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Petition to
Doug Ford and

Why this petition matters

Started by Dr. Romina Coppa

Attn:   The Hon. Doug Ford, Premier of Ontario

           The Hon. Stephen Lecce, Minister of Education

           The Hon. Christine Elliot, Minister of Health

           Dr. Kieran Moore, Chief Medical Officer

As mental health professionals providing care to children, adolescents, adults, and families we are informing you of our significant concern regarding the repeated closure of Ontario schools and extracurricular activities as these actions have created significant harms.  Children are more ill and require more care.  They simply cannot bear the brunt of this any longer.    

While the importance of mitigating the spread of COVID-19 infection in our community and the burden that infection rates place on hospital capacity, the provision of medical care, and first responders is understood and a necessary priority, the mechanism(s) by which these risks are being mitigated and how this is being balanced against the mental health needs of youth and families seems to have been disregarded.  Short-term infection control strategies can no longer be prioritized over the long-term health of children.   

Repeated periods of on-line learning, excessive screen time, limited interaction with peers, loss of special needs/learning supports, social isolation, and reduced physical activity have resulted in a steep rise in depression, anxieties, trauma responses, developmental regression, learning problems, eating problems, substance use, self-harm and suicidal behaviours. Very importantly, school and activities are also safe places for kids, especially from abuse, and teachers are typically the first adults they disclose abuse to.  The rates of abuse in homes have skyrocketed during the pandemic, a horrifying consequence that is increased with lockdowns and closures. Kids are bored, lonely, depressed, angry and scared.    

Evidence of this mental health crisis is being seen in all areas of the mental health system and by those who see kids regularly, including psychologists, psychiatrists, paediatricians, family physicians, psychotherapists, social workers, children’s aid workers, teachers, and of course by parents and families. Parents and guardians have not only been witness to these problems, but themselves are severely stressed and burdened by balancing work obligations and home schooling.  Families are struggling and breaking down. 

It is important to acknowledge that childhood and teen years are developmental periods, both physically and mentally.  The sustained negative effects of school/activity closures on their development will continue long-term into adulthood.  Today’s pandemic kids will require mental health care in the future. Mental health professionals are here to assess and treat but clinics and agencies are overburdened with referrals and we are exhausted.  Many have over two year long wait lists and have closed because they cannot manage the need nor do they have the staff.  This is complicated by the reality that many seeking services have limited and/or no coverage for them.  In order to meet this need, many professionals have taken on higher case loads, extended their clinical hours, and have provided service at reduced rates or pro bono.

We strongly urge you to have a duly qualified psychologist be a part of your advisory boards, so that the voice of children and families can be heard more clearly.  We agree with you, “nothing is more important than keeping our children safe”.


     Dr. Romina Coppa

     Clinical Psychologist 

     Research Psychologist 

     Behavioural Neuroscientist


Supported By:

Dr. Jennifer Felsher                    Dr. Dawn Decunha 

Clinical Psychologist                    Clinical Psychologist

                                                     School Psychologist


Dr. Arielle Buch-Frohlich           Dr. Pamela Walinsky

Clinical Psychologist                   Clinical Psychologist


Dr. Lynne Lamarche                  Dr. Shireen Abuhatoum

Clinical Psychologist                   Clinical Psychologist


Dr. Silvia Bernadini                     Dr. Kim Arbus 

Clinical Psychologist                    Clinical Psychologist


Dr. Meghan Prosser                   Melanie Parker

Clinical Psychologist                   Registered Psychotherapist

Counselling Psychologist            

School Psychologist


Dr. Samantha Fuss                   Ariel Litteljohn Bookalam

Clinical Psychologist                  Psychometrist


Christelle Card                         Michael Davis

Registered Social Worker          Registered Social Worker

Mental Health Clinician             Clinical Associate

Michelle Spudic                       Franca A. Iannotta 

Registered Social Worker          Counselling Psychologist

                                                  School Psychologist 


Monique Clavette-Garon        Kelsey Harford

Registered Psychotherapist      Registered Social Worker

                                                  Clinical Therapist


Dr. Samantha Scapinello        Dr. Jenifer Scully 

Clinical Psychologist                 Clinical Psychologist


Danielle Rose
Regional Training & Program Manager


Almeida, M., Challa, M., Ribeiro, M., et al. (2021) The mental health impact of school closures during the COVID-19 pandemic.  The Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, doi:10.111/jcppp.13535.

Hawrilenko, M., Kroshus, E., Tandom, P. et al. (2021) The association between school closures and child mental health during COVID-19. JAMA Network Open, 4(9): 1-11.

Lee, J. (2020) Mental health effects of school closures during COVID-19. The Lancet, 4:1.

Racine, N., McArthur, B., Looke, J., et al. (2021) Global prevalence of depressive and anxiety symptoms in children and adolescents during COVID-19:  A meta-analysis.  JAMA Pediatrics, 175(11): 1142-1150.

Vaillaincourt, T., McDougall, P., Comeau, J., et al. (2021) COVID-19 school closures and social isolation in children and youth:  prioritizing relationships in education.  FACETS, 6: 1795-1813.

Vaillancourt, T., Szatmari, P., Georgiades, K., et al. (2021) The impact of COVID-19 on the mental health of Canadian children and youth.  FACETS, 6:

Viner, R., Russell, S., Saulle, R., et al. (2021) Impacts of school closures on physical and mental health of children and young people: a systematic review.  medRxiv,


328 have signed. Let’s get to 500!