COVID-19 death rates are skyrocketing right now. But the virus can be the cause of death in a less direct way, like in the case of 16-year-old Spencer Smith. The Brunswick, Maine teen committed suicide on Friday, December 4.
Spencer’s note explained his reasoning: he felt locked in the house and isolated from his friends. His despondent action was a shock to his family.
“He’s loved by so many that it’s hard to believe he’s this depressed and he did this,” Spencer’s dad, Jay Smith told Fox News.
COVID-19 Lockdowns Put Teens At Risk
Jay Smith feels that it’s important to get the word out: Teens are suffering during this pandemic, and they need help.
There’s no question that the pandemic creates a rise in suicide rates. A recent study published in QJM: An International Journal of Medicine addressed the impact.
“The COVID-19 crisis may increase suicide rates during and after the pandemic. Mental health consequences of the COVID-19 crisis including suicidal behavior are likely to be present for a long time and peak later than the actual pandemic. To reduce suicides during the COVID-19 crisis, it is imperative to decrease stress, anxiety, fears and loneliness in the general population,” the study’s authors wrote.
And, while the study doesn’t address teen suicide directly, it does point to isolation as a trigger. “From a suicide prevention perspective, it is troubling that the most important public health approach for the COVID-19 epidemic is social distancing.”
Other studies and surveys reflect more disturbing findings.
According to a study from the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (JAACAP), there are now children and adolescents with higher rates of depression and anxiety resulting from the required isolation and loneliness of COVID-19.
Another survey, released by ParentsTogether, found that the majority of kids surveyed (70%) reported feeling sad, overwhelmed and worried. Nearly half the parents (44%) are saying that their kids are struggling with mental wellness since the pandemic started.
Look for Clues in Your Teen
Pastor Mark Rockwood, the Chaplin at the Brunswick Police Department, noticed an increase in complaints from teens in his youth group; many are depressed.
“It’s already a stressful time for many of them,” Rockwood said. “And now, when they don’t have the ability to have that social interaction with one another, that puts more added stress on them.”
Jay Smith hopes that the Brunswick school system might ease up on restrictions regarding extracurriculars and social events. “The kids need their peers more than ever now,” he said
The most important thing? Pay attention and talk to your teen. Brandon Stratford, Director of Education Research at Child Trends, says that silence for teens indicates trouble.
Consistent communication with teens counters isolation. “I think that’s a key thing to let people know is that there is help. And if you’re going through something difficult, we can work on getting you help. But it’s really hard to do anything when nobody else knows what you’re going through. So particularly as a family member, making sure they know, ‘I am one of those people who is absolutely going to want to hear about it,’” Stratford tells Parentology.
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-8255.