With rise in child suicide and depression, should pandemic restrictions be eased?
- As of February 3, there have been 27 million coronavirus cases in the United States with 459,548 reported deaths.
- As certain states experience COVID surges, many are tightening their restrictions, including Alaska, Arizona, Colorado, Arkansas, Wisconsin, Connecticut, West Virginia, Virginia, Washington D.C., and New Hampshire. However, both Missouri and Florida have lifted their restrictions.
- According to NPR, hospitals across the country are reporting an increase in suicidal children coming to their hospitals in worsening mental states. In one school district in Nevada, 19 students committed suicide. The number of child suicide attempts doubled from 2019 to 2020 in Oakland, California.
- The suicide rate increased 35% from 1999 to 2018 with suicide being the second leading cause of death for those aged 10 to 34.
Aside from those who contracted COVID-19, it could easily be said that the virus’s secondary victims are children and teens whose childhoods have been dramatically altered. Due to shutdowns, students have been significantly isolated and have missed out on events that youth typically look forward to, such as graduation, school dances, extra-curricular activities, and other social functions. Perhaps even more importantly, shutdowns have kept students with pre-existing mental health issues and abusive family situations from accessing resources they formerly received at school.
The pandemic has been undeniably trying on people throughout the globe. This, compounded with adolescence already being a difficult time in one’s life, creates the ‘perfect storm’ for mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, substance abuse, and under the worst circumstances, suicide attempts. Communities nationwide have seen staggering increases in the number of children and teens who have been hospitalized for mental health-related issues or have followed through in taking their own lives. Clark County, Nevada’s school district alone fell victim to a devasting 19 students who committed suicide “since the shutdown last March;” in San Francisco, California, eight teens were admitted to the hospital on Halloween for attempting it. These are essentially cries for help from youth that our country needs to reopen.
Long-term consequences must also be considered, including the potential developmental effects that isolation from pandemic restrictions could have on our nation’s youth later in life, as studies have shown that loneliness increases the chances of developing depression or anxiety down the road. Children will not get this precious time back, even after the country reopens, which politicians should consider when implementing reoccurring pandemic restrictions.
The idea of easing pandemic restrictions to account for the mental health of young people is quite counter-productive. The guidelines in place are an attempt to protect people of all ages from this highly-contagious virus that has struck the nation and the world.
Suicide among children is undoubtedly a significant threat and risk when requiring people to stay home. However, children have been proven to later face serious respiratory and cardiovascular issues after contracting COVID. The virus may not be as apparent when the child actually has it, as young people have such high-functioning immune systems. However, these symptoms can arise after the child has 'beat' the virus. While children tend to suffer less from the virus's immediate threats, its long-term effects generate a reason for worry.
With new, un-tested variants of the virus surfacing over the past few weeks, it is best to exercise all forms of precaution. Recently, four different variants have been detected by scientists, with two of them showing up in the United States. While the actual danger presented by these variants hasn't been pinpointed, there has been speculation that the variant can be 30 percent more deadly than the original virus.
School systems should offer more government-funded resources to combat the depression children face due to these pandemic restrictions. Instead, by easing restrictions and potentially allowing these children to contract the virus and sicken their families, their weakened mental states could be even more adversely affected.
***If you are feeling suicidal or know someone who may be in danger of hurting themselves, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK(8255) or the Suicide Hotline: 1-800-SUICIDE (1-800-784-2433), both of which are staffed by crisis professionals.***
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