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June 18, 2021

COVID Side Effects: Teen Suicide Attempts Spike

The CDC reports that teens made 31% more attempts on their own lives than before the pandemic.

No surprise here — in fact, we’ve written about it before — but a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirms what many surmised: The psychological toll of lockdowns and social isolation would have a significant impact on teenagers. In 2020, suicide attempts by adolescents age 12 to 17 jumped 31% over the year prior.

According to the report, “Young persons might represent a group at high risk because they might have been particularly affected by mitigation measures, such as physical distancing (including a lack of connectedness to schools, teachers, and peers); barriers to mental health treatment; increases in substance use; and anxiety about family health and economic problems.”

Importantly, the report observes that the longer the lockdowns and school closures went on, a corresponding uptick in youth suicide attempts resulted, especially among girls. Earlier this year, from February to March, ER visits among girls 12 to 17 for suspected suicide attempts increased by a whopping 50.6% over the same pre-pandemic period last year. Suicide attempts by boys over the same time span rose by 3.7%. Girls are certainly more in need of in-person social interaction.

In the end, the pandemic’s largest health impact on today’s teenagers may in fact be on their mental well-being rather than any major physical illness.

As educator Barbara James wrote last November, “Surviving 2020 is only the beginning. The lasting impact of the gravitas of shutdowns, masks, and other extraordinary measures is yet to be determined. Our children will have lost months of education, growth, natural curiosity and discovery, and personal interactions. I fear we will feel the lasting effects of this gap resulting in stunted or delayed development. Will the relief of a vaccine overcome the grief over the loss of special moments, milestones, family traditions, and family members?”

Furthermore, with mandated social distancing and school closures, the primary means for teenagers to connect has been via social media. There’s little question that social media by its very nature can have quite the toxic impact on an individual’s mental well-being — especially for young people who are still developing an understanding of their own self-worth. It doesn’t take a social scientist or even an anti-bullying advocate to observe that social media can have an especially deleterious influence over an individual’s self-esteem. Compound that for teens with little to no in-person interaction, and you have a spiking suicide rate.

We are now starting to see the consequences of power-engrossed governing officials and their bad policy decisions of prolonged lockdowns. And while a number of COVID deaths may be tallied, the number of deaths due to government officials’ response to the novel virus may never be known or even truly considered. And for many of America’s teenagers, the “cure” for COVID almost certainly has been worse than the disease.

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