Lexington mental health professional reacts to study saying teen suicide rates dropped during COVID-19 school shutdowns
LEXINGTON, Ky. (WKYT) - Students face many challenges during the pandemic, but a new study reveals that the stress of heading back to school may be impacting teens harder than previously thought.
The pandemic introduced an entirely new set of stressors for kids, but that doesn’t mean that preexisting anxieties just disappeared. For NAMI Lexington Advocacy Director Kelly Gunning, she says that this compounded anxiety makes this new data not all that surprising.
“I think it’s no surprise maybe that kids breathed a sigh of relief that they don’t have to deal with all the extracurricular stressors outside of academics,” said Gunning.
Despite significant changes to how schools functioned, not all of the changes were bad.
“If I were able as a young person to pull myself out of that highly charged and highly competitive environment, cliquey environment, I would probably be less stressed and less likely to be depressed as well,” Gunning said.
Data shows that while the rate of hospital visits increased from 2016 to 2019, they decreased in 2020 when schools shut down and rose to above-expected numbers again in 2021 when schools reopened.
“Not only is it the typical stressors, but it’s the post-pandemic stress period where you’re having to readjust to all of these things again,” said Gunning.
The findings shed light on an important lesson for us all.
“Let’s really wake up,” said Gunning. “Wake up and listen to what these things are telling us about what’s going on with our kids.”
Gunning says there is no single solution to this mental health crisis facing our children. But rather, as a society, we need to work together in order to make these spaces safer for our children.
Researchers believe interventions during the peak months of April and October could help protect against the seasonal increases in teen suicide or self-harm.
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