According to a new report released on the first day of school, suicide is the second leading cause of death among young people in Canada.

The report suggests that as many as one in five children and youth in Ontario will experience some form of mental health problem, but only 18 per cent will get the help they need.

“To think that so many of our kids are dying needlessly,” said Sara Austin, founder of Children First Canada, the non-profit that released the study. “I really encourage parents as their kids are transitioning back to school to have open and honest conversations with their kids.”

“Create space for kids to be able to speak up and do so without judgment.”

The leading cause of death among young people is accidents and preventable injuries. Following suicide, other threats to the wellbeing of children include abuse, poverty, obesity, food security, immunization, discrimination and bullying.

With children across the country starting school on Tuesday, experts say now is the time for parents to initiate conversations with their kids.

“It’s during these transition times we are reminded of all the big feelings that can come,” said Jake Ernst, a psychotherapist with Straight Up Health, an organization that offers youth access to mental health care.

Ernst says the rush of back-to-school can put added stress on children.

“It can trigger any sort of stress and panic and anxiety.”

He encourages parents to check in with their kids often, but acknowledges kids don’t always want to talk with their parents about what’s going on.

“A lot of young people don’t want to go to parents because they feel like they’re letting them down,” he said. “So it’s about creating a safe place for them to talk, or finding that place.”

The authors of the report are calling on all federal party leaders to address the wellbeing of children during the upcoming federal election. Among the recommendations, they want a national “children’s budget,” which would set a minimum standard for adequate resources to be directed towards Canadian children.