Silent Tragedy 1

February 10, 2021

One of the worst consequences of lockdowns is an alarming increase in suicide deaths in children and teen-agers worldwide.

One of the worst consequences of lockdowns is an alarming sharp increase in suicide deaths in children and teen-agers worldwide. All of these deaths are not directly due to covid virus, but rather to forced isolation, school and recreational place closure. Almost one year after the onset of the covid-19 pandemic, lockdown measures have sent the suicide rate among children and teens (aged <18) surging worldwide.

1) A new paper entitled, “Suicide Ideation and Attempts in a Pediatric Emergency Department Before and During covid-19”, and published in “Pediatrics”, evaluated whether youth living in a metropolitan area of Texas reported a greater frequency of suicide-related behaviors during the 2020 covid-19 pandemic as compared with 2019.

“In this study,” authors explain, “we identified increased rates of youth suicide ideation and suicide attempts during the covid-19 pandemic in 2020 as compared with 2019. … Suicide is the second leading cause of death (road injury is the leading cause) among children and adolescents aged 10 to 17 years in the United States, and suicide rates have increased in the age group over the past 20 years.”

“In this study, we evaluated whether rates of youth suicide-related behaviors have been elevated during the covid-19 pandemic by examining rates of positive results on suicide-risk screens administered as routine screening in a pediatric ED (Emergency Department). Comparison of the rate of suicide screen results positive for recent suicide ideation revealed significantly increased rates of ideation in March and July 2020 as compared with screening rates in March and July 2019. Similarly, screen results positive for recent suicide attempts were higher in February, March, April, and July 2020 than in those same months in 2019. Of note, the number of ED visits was substantially reduced during the covid-19 pandemic. Consequently, direct comparison of rates across years should be made with caution.”

“Across the entire study period, 15.8% (n = 2033) reported past-month suicide ideation, and 4.3% (n = 554) reported a recent suicide attempt (past 3 months). … The odds of recent suicide ideation were 1.60 times higher in March 2020 compared with March 2019 and 1.45 times higher in July 2020 compared with July 2019. … Rates of positive suicide-risk screen results were not uniformly higher after the outbreak of the covid-19 pandemic in the United States in March 2020, as indicated by the lack of statistically significant differences in rates of positive screen results, particularly in May and June. There appears to have been an early increase in suicide-related behaviors between February and April 2020. This time frame corresponds to the onset of the pandemic in the United States, including initial stay-at-home orders and social distancing efforts that went into effect in March as well as early outbreaks in some parts of the United States.”

Authors concluded: “Additional research is needed to evaluate unique risk and protective factors that may be associated with suicide risk in the context of a global pandemic. In the current study, we were not able to evaluate individual effects of pandemic-related fears or stresses, social distancing and other preventive measures (eg, cancelling in-person classes, distance learning, isolation from peers), and stay-at-home or mask orders on suicide-related behaviors. In future efforts, researchers should aim to evaluate which aspects of the pandemic and pandemic responses have the greatest impact on youth suicide-related behaviors”.

2) A group of Indian researchers – authors of a paper entitled, “Suicide among children during Covid-19 pandemic: An alarming social issue” and published in the Asian Journal of Psychiatry – sent a Letter to the Editor saying: “The covid-19 pandemic has caused havoc in the lives of the people. The fear and insecurity it has brought in its wake is not restricted to the increasing number of active reported cases and deaths. … The pandemic has forced people out of their comfort zones and impacted their emotional and mental health. And while adults may be better equipped to handle the disruptions, children have been greatly impacted.”

“This is best illustrated by the Indian state of Kerala, which had initially won worldwide appreciation for the way it had handled the covid situation. However … Kerala’s success with the pandemic was short-lived. And what came to the fore was even more alarming – that of children taking their lives. … While children attend online classes, they spend the rest of their time in front of the TV and the Internet, and this in turn, has led to psycho-social problems like Internet addiction, lower self-esteem and low interest in physical activities. Cyberbullying and anxiety while on social networking platforms, have also taken their toll on their mental health.”

“The current pandemic”, they say, “has brought to shore a problem that needs redressal and that is, parents have to forgo the authoritative approach and be more receptive to their children. They should be able to read the signs and nip the problem in the bud. Also, in case they feel that they are unable to address their children’s psychological needs, they shouldn’t see it as a setback on their abilities, rather, they should immediately seek professional help to avert disastrous consequences such as depression or suicides.”

3) According to “The Defender” (by “Children’s Health Defence”) “although statistics for the 2020 year have not yet been compiled, professionals speculate the rising suicide rate among children is due to not having access to mental health services in schools, school closures, hopelessness, increased anxiety and stress, and students feeling disconnected from their peers. Other countries with strict lockdowns and school closures are seeing similar rises in suicides.”

4) Moreover, according to a recent “Morbidity and Mortality Report” by the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) entitled, “Mental Health-Related Emergency Department Visits Among Children Aged <18 Years During the covid-19 Pandemic – United States, January 1–October 17, 2020” analyzing emergency room visits in children under 18 during the pandemic, results showed that the number of mental health-related visits increased.

CDC Report says: “Published reports suggest that the coronavirus disease 2019 (covid-19) pandemic has had a negative effect on children’s mental health. … Beginning in April 2020, the proportion of children’s mental health–related ED (Emergency Departments) visits among all pediatric ED visits increased and remained elevated through October. Compared with 2019, the proportion of mental health-related visits for children aged 5–11 and 12–17 years increased approximately 24% and 31%, respectively.”

“Adolescents aged 12–17 years accounted for the highest proportion of mental health-related ED visits in both 2019 and 2020, followed by children aged 5–11 years. Many mental disorders commence in childhood, and mental health concerns in these age groups might be exacerbated by stress related to the pandemic and abrupt disruptions to daily life associated with mitigation efforts, including anxiety about illness, social isolation, and interrupted connectedness to school.”

Full Study “Suicide Ideation and Attempts in a Pediatric Emergency Department Before and During covid-19”, and published in “Pediatrics”
Full Study “Suicide among children during Covid-19 pandemic: An alarming social issue” and Letter to the Editor
Full CDC Report “Mental Health-Related Emergency Department Visits Among Children Aged <18 Years During the covid-19 Pandemic – United States, January 1–October 17, 2020”
Full Article by “The Defender”