School COVID-19 Closures Hurting Teens’ Mental Health

Experts are concerned that school closures caused by COVID-19 may affect the mental health of our children, especially teenagers and young adults.

According to Axios, hospitals have experienced a sharp increase in mental health emergencies among youngsters. Health professionals are concerned about the role social isolation has played on their mental and emotional wellbeing during the pandemic.

“The isolation we need to do to save lives is hitting right at their developmental core,” said Dr. Ken Duckworth, the medical director for the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

There has already been a dramatic uptick in suicides for this age group. According to The New York Times, a surge of suicides in the Las Vegas area forced the Clark County School District in Nevada to partially reopen schools in January. After 18 students took their own lives in the final months of 2020, officials said they had to start looking at numbers other than COVID-19 cases for the health of their children.

“We have to find ways to put our hands on our kids, to see them, to look at them,” said Clark County superintendent Jesus Jara. Jara added that the 18 suicides were double the number of the previous year and the youngest victim was only 9 years old.

British researchers warned that the mental effect of COVID-19 lockdown on children should not be underestimated and that many already suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder or PTSD. The investigators from the Anna Freud National Centre for Children and Families reported that children are suffering from “increasing levels of worry, fear, anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress” due to lockdowns.

According to Newsweek, the researchers cited the impact of school closures, increased time away from their peers, and worries about their own health as possible causes for the emotional and mental distress. The experts said that the effects of coping with these issues could have lasting consequences.

While some school districts have set up surveillance strategies to track potentially troubled teens and others have instituted virtual calming centers with links to helpful tactics such as breathing techniques and support hotlines, experts say that nothing can replace a return to the classroom, according to Axios.

“When our kids aren’t being exposed to other kids and they’re socially disconnected, or our kids aren’t being given the opportunity to learn and thrive, that has a ripple effect,” said Dr. Benjamin F. Miller, the chief strategy officer for Well Being Trust, a national foundation committed to advancing the mental, social, and spiritual health of the nation.

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