Suicide has been on the rise in both the United States and North Carolina among youth ages 10 to 17 over the last two decades. Policies and mandates to mitigate Covid-19 infection may have further contributed to the rising suicide rate. Youth have experienced unprecedented disruptions to school and home life since Covid-19 began. Lockdowns, school closures, zoom classrooms, and mask mandates dramatically changed their lifestyles. As proms, sports, and graduation ceremonies were canceled, the social isolation that ensued may have created or aggravated mental health challenges.
The World Health Organization reported that the Covid-19 pandemic triggered a 25% increase in the prevalence of anxiety and depression worldwide. The CDC surveyed high school students at the beginning of the pandemic and discovered 55% of students experienced emotional abuse by a parent or other adult in their home. They found it more difficult to complete their schoolwork (66%) and reported feelings of insecurity from parental job loss (29%) and personal job loss (22%).
The CDC tracked high-school students’ “suicidality” including suicidal thoughts, plans, and attempts. By 2021, 22% of high school students had seriously considered suicide within the past year, up from 16% in 2011. Eighteen percent made a suicide plan with 10% attempting suicide at least once, compared with 13% and 8%, respectively, 10 years earlier.
Rising rates of youth suicide in North Carolina match the national trend. The loud cries to reopen the schools for in-person learning were not only about students falling behind academically but also about students’ heightened risk for suicide. The newly released 2023 NC Child Fatality report shockingly revealed the number of suicides nearly tripled among youth between the ages of 10-17 --the highest suicide rate in two decades!
The Fatality report also revealed increased rates of NC high-school students who had seriously considered attempting suicide (22% in 2021 vs. 16% in 2015). There was a 46% increase in self-inflicted injury emergency room visits among females ages 10-14. Additionally, 43% of high-school students said they felt sad or hopeless and 33% felt alone in their life.
North Carolina State University is reeling from the 8 college students who committed suicide this 2022-2023 academic year. In response, the university formed the Student Mental Health Task Force, and its report cited that 74% of students said that the pandemic affected their mental health and 67% said it affected feelings of loneliness and isolation.
Covid-19 has taken a devasting toll on our youth nationwide and in our home state of North Carolina. Although suicidal behavior among the youth predates Covid-19, pandemic policy decisions and mandates may have led to feelings of social isolation, loneliness, emotional abuse, and insecurity amplifying the trend in mental health challenges and suicidality.
Adolescence is exciting and stressful when physical, cognitive, social, emotional, and sexual changes happen rapidly. Adolescents discover their self-identity by establishing strong bonds with peers, who are important sources of support and companionship. Canceling opportunities for adolescents to gather with friends may have caused more harm than good. Covid-19 infection in this age group only presented with mild symptoms that rarely led to hospitalization. On the contrary, pandemic policies of isolating youth from their peers and canceling opportunities to socialize may have developmentally impeded the transition to a healthy self-image and, worst yet, fostered or exacerbated mental illness.
Our youth is our national treasure. Let’s work together in preventing suicides by recognizing their signs and symptoms and learning how to help. We can work together to reduce people’s risk of suicide and suffering while at the same time mitigating infection rates of future pandemics.
Let us never repeat the travesty of Covid-19. Political leaders need to acknowledge their policy failures and assure that they will never happen again. With upcoming elections in North Carolina, we can vet candidates and question their commitment to healthcare freedom and protecting citizens from emergency powers overreach.
Disclaimer: The information provided in this blog post is for general informational purposes only and is not intended to be treated as official medical advice. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read in this blog post. The statistics and reports mentioned here are based on the data available at the time of writing and are subject to change as new information becomes available. If you are in crisis or you think you may have an emergency, call your doctor or 911 immediately. If you're having suicidal thoughts, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at +1 (800) 273-8255.
Nina is the daughter of Italian immigrants, who imbued in her a love for America where hard work leads to achieving one’s dreams. Nina earned a doctorate in Social Psychology and Personality theory and made a career in nonprofits including Research Triangle Institute as a health policy analyst. Nina’s first vote was cast for Ronald Reagan, and her pursuit and defense of conservative constitutional principles began there. Nina spends much of her time cooking for family and friends because food is love revealed. Nina is also passionate about defending her country against government tyranny. When you’re at her dinner table, you are sure to get an earful of how to keep America great.