The percentage of teenagers hospitalized for suspected suicide attempts surged during the COVID-19 lockdowns.
A recently released CDC study showed that female adolescents ages 12 through 17 visited the emergency department (ED) for suicide attempts between February and March of 2021 at a nearly 51 percent higher rate compared to the same time frame in 2019 before the COVID-19 lockdowns and stay-at-home orders forced businesses and schools to close due to plummeting consumer demand and mandatory safety precaution.
For a short period between March and April of 2020, ED visits for suspected suicide attempts among people ages 12 through 25 declined but then began to shoot up again during the summer of 2020. Between July and August, CDC researchers found that suspected suicide attempts rose over 26 percent among girls ages 12 through 17.
While the increase in reported suicide attempts among girls did not directly correspond to more suicide deaths, the analysis states, “The findings from this study suggest more severe distress among young females than has been identified in previous reports during the pandemic, reinforcing the need for increased attention to, and prevention for, this population.”
According to the CDC, among the factors contributing to the alarming trend are COVID-mitigation measures that have proven to be socially isolating, including “physical distancing,” “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.” The study noted that mental-health cases have spiked over the pandemic, suggesting they may be a function of children spending more time at home due to the lockdowns as well.
In July 2020, former CDC director Robert Redfield noticed the mental-health crisis among young people and argued that lockdowns were disproportionately affecting that age demographic.
“There has been another cost that we’ve seen, particularly in high schools. We’re seeing, sadly, far greater suicides now than we are deaths from COVID. We’re seeing far greater deaths from drug overdose that are above excess that we had as background than we are seeing the deaths from COVID,” Redfield said.