Back at the beginning of the pandemic, in April 2020, JAMA Psychiatry warned of the possible consequences of lockdowns, saying that lockdowns might help slow the spread of Covid-19, but “the potential for adverse outcomes on suicide risk is high.”
It looks like they were right.
The CDC recently published data that shows a significant increase in suspected suicide attempts among teens and college-aged young adults in 2020. The CDC reports that “during 2020, the proportion of mental health-related emergency department visits among adolescents aged 12–17 years increased 31% compared with that during 2019.” It goes on to detail how suspected suicide attempts among girls ages 12-17 were 50.6% higher compared to 2019. The rate among teenage boys also increased by 3.7%.
A recent Wall Street Journal article adds to this data, reporting that in California teenage suicide increased 24% in 2020, amounting to 134 deaths. Meanwhile, only 23 California minors died of Covid-19.
The lockdowns and other social restrictions seem to be more deadly for teens and young adults than Covid-19 itself. One example is the case of Beth Palmer, an “affectionate and loving” 17-year-old in the UK who committed suicide in April 2020, one month into lockdown. Beth was a vivacious college student and an aspiring singer. And even though she hadn’t struggled with mental health before, she “crumbled in isolation” and became “obsessive” in her worry that the lockdown wouldn’t be temporary.
"I have no doubt the lockdown has played a major part in Beth's death. She couldn't finish college, she couldn't go out and see her friends. She felt as though this three-month lockdown was to her 300 years. This three-month lockdown I think became an extreme, almost obsessive obsession, that it was never going to end,” her father Mike Palmer said in a viral video last year.
“The devastation is indescribable. It saddens me to say but I don't think she'll be alone,” he added.
The CDC report states that “Young persons might represent a group at high risk because they might have been particularly affected by mitigation measures, such as physical distancing (including 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, which are all risk factors for suicide.”
All humans, but especially children and teenagers, need socialization and physical touch. It looks like while attempting to avoid one health crisis, government-imposed lockdowns created another.