Children in New Brunswick have the highest obesity rates in the country along with hospitalization rates for mental problems or learning disorders that are double - or even triple - the national rate in some instances.
A glimpse of life for New Brunswick's children is contained in the 2013 State of the Child Report released Wednesday by Child and Youth Advocate Norm Bossé.
The findings pertaining to the state of mental health of youth included:
- Hospital admission rates for behavioural and learning disorders are more than three times the national rate;
- New Brunswick's rate of hospital admission of children and youth for mental disorders is almost twice the national rate;
"Experts we have consulted mention that this is not necessarily an indication of a higher incidence of disease or mental illness per se, but perhaps more so a reflection of the paucity of our interventions," states the report.
In an interview, Bossé stated: "There needs to be transformational research done into adolescent mental health and we are working on that very project right now."
"The services that we have, have to be made available to the youth as early as possible and the interventions have to take place in the community," said Bossé. "Sending somebody to the hospital – especially young people – to the hospital for mental health problems is not always a good solution."
Other areas of concern and factors of harm that are pointed out in the report include:
- Obesity ranges in teenagers jumped from 23 per cent to 28 per cent, the highest in the country;
- 58 per cent of youths in Grades 6 to 1 reported being bullied;
- New Brunswick has the highest rate of teen asthma in the country;
- The province has the fourth-highest rate out of 10 provinces for children being victims of family violence.
Despite some of those statistics, Bossé said the state of the New Brunswick child today is not as bad as it may appear.
"If one was to read the report out of context, one could say it is pretty desperate, but I don't think it is," said Bossé
"There are some high points and some low points," he said. "Rates of incarceration in the youth criminal juvenile system is less. That's a good sign.
"Rates that our children are in front of TV screens and computer screens and all that is still not good.
"But overall, we're not in desperate shape."
The annual report is based on statistics complied by the New Brunswick Health Council and provided to Bossé's office.
The child and youth advocate says the sixth annual report can serve as the starting point for a larger conversation about how to protect children and youth in New Brunswick from harm. He believes the provincial government will look closely at the findings.
"Is the government listening?" he said. "I daresay, with this sixth report of the child and youth advocate's office, they will look at this and look at it very seriously and see if we can move these ahead much quicker than we've seen in the last few years."