The COVID-19 pandemic has forced people all over the world into isolation. For some, this is a welcome respite from the constant stress of everyday life. For others, especially adolescents, however, the isolation and lack of human interaction has led to an increase in suicidal thoughts and behaviors.
If you’re a parent or teacher of an at-risk adolescent, then you’ve probably been keeping a close eye on the news lately. With all the hysteria surrounding COVID-19, it can be hard to know what’s going on and how to help your teen stay grounded.
In this post, we’ll take a look at some of the latest research on adolescent suicide in light of the pandemic and offer some tips for staying positive during these difficult times.
The Rise In Adolescent Suicide During The Pandemic
According to the CDC, teenage emergency room hospital visits for suicide attempts have increased immensely during the COVID-19 pandemic. In females, it was a 50% rise and a nearly 4% increase in adolescent males.
It’s important to establish that the pandemic is not the reason for increased suicide attempts in teenagers. Instead, it exacerbates pre-existing mental health issues that were only amplified by COVID-19. Parents and caregivers must understand these at-risk adolescents’ pre-existing struggles to help them overcome their suicidal thoughts and remain hopeful for recovery.
The Impact of COVID-19 Isolation On Adolescents
Adolescents are especially susceptible to the effects of social isolation. The stress and anxiety of being isolated can lead to a rise in suicidal thoughts and behaviors.
During COVID-19, adolescents have been forced to stay home from school and avoid large public gatherings. This has resulted in increased feelings of loneliness, isolation, and fear.
The effects of COVID-19 have been devastating on people in general, but in particular teens throughout the United States and elsewhere. Young adults have experienced extreme social isolation through mandated school closings, forcing students to only interact via Zoom and school communication apps. An absence of social gatherings causes already vulnerable teens to delve deep into feelings of isolation, leading to depression.
The stress of mandates on teens
While there is currently no evidence that wearing a mask has adverse effects on one’s mental health, young adults can still experience anxiety and isolation associated with mandates. The possibility for this increase in teenage angst could stem from several environmental factors, such as hyper-focus on media coverage or even peer pressure.
Negative influences about the pandemic situation, masks, and vaccine mandates could make teens feel even more discouraged about the state of our world. They may worry they will never know what “normal” life is again, leading them into further isolation where suicidal thoughts could arise without support.
Current social distancing measures vs. long-term mental health effects
Now that the epidemic is under better management and schools are reopening, the school structure, activities, and social relationships may provide some adolescents with a sense of relief.
Many psychologists, nevertheless, believe that the consequences of COVID-19 will have long-term impacts on adolescent mental health. Some of which include:
- Long-term isolation during peak infection times
- Economic strain on family finances
- Illness/death in family or friends
The impact of these conditions might be amplified by the frustrations associated with resuming social ties, transitioning from a distance school to a class environment, and attempting to catch up on their academic work and testing (particularly for kids with more significant educational support needs or those who haven’t had access for remote learning).
Adolescent Suicide Prevention
Every year, teenagers undergo significant transformations within their bodies and minds. Therefore each year allows adolescents to further develop their identities and experience associated pressures. COVID-19’s quickly approaching third year significantly raises the need to evaluate adolescent psychosocial functioning.
Suicide is the second leading cause of death for adolescents ages 15 to 24. The pandemic has made things even more difficult for those struggling with suicidal thoughts.
The stress of being isolated, the fear of pandemic-related death, and the overall anxiety of the situation can be too much for some adolescents to handle.
What kind of young teens have suicidal feelings?
When children and adolescents try to commit suicide, they often suffer from significant mental health disorders, such as depression.
Suicide attempts among younger children are often impulsive and associated with feelings of sadness, confusion, or anger. They may experience sensations of despair or confusion and problems focusing on tasks at hand due to attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), which can spiral into depression.
Teenage suicides may also appear to be solutions for some teens in these circumstances. They struggle with stressors like self-doubt and pressure from society that demand success, which can make them feel disappointed when things do not work out as expected.
Children and adolescents must have their mental illness recognized and diagnosed correctly by a doctor who understands the condition they are being treated for. The treatment plan should be comprehensive to help these patients quickly and effectively.
Thoughts about suicide are often associated with depression. In addition, other risk factors include:
- suicide attempts in the family history
- violence exposure
- impulsive tendencies
- aggressive or disruptive conduct
- access to firearms or other weapons
- victim of bullying
- acute sense of hopelessness/helplessness
- significant loss such as a death in the family
- social rejection
How Parents and Caregivers Can Help
If you’re a parent or caregiver of a suicidal teen, it’s important to remember that your adolescent is going through a lot right now.
The best thing you can do is offer support. Here are a few tips:
- Maintain open communication: Let your teenager know that they can talk to you about anything that’s bothering them.
- Encourage socialization: Even though they may not be able to go out in public, encourage your teen to stay connected with their friends online or over the phone.
- Watch for warning signs: Keep an eye out for any changes in mood, behavior, or appearance. If you notice anything that concerns you, don’t hesitate to reach out for help.
- Get professional help if needed: If your teen is struggling with suicidal thoughts or behaviors, it’s vital to seek professional help.
Enhance Health Group is a leading provider of mental health services for adolescents in Orange County. Contact us today to schedule a consultation.