As the country prepares for the winter season and the inevitable rise in cold and flu cases, a study has emerged from the University of Cambridge examining the effect of mandatory government shutdowns on the mental health of our children. The study, published in the Archives of Disease in Childhood, focuses on the potential ramifications of school closures in the UK on the wellbeing of children within the subset of those ages 7 ½ to 11 ½.
According to study results, “During the UK lockdown, children’s depression symptoms have increased substantially, relative to before lockdown. The scale of this effect has direct relevance for the continuation of different elements of lockdown policy, such as complete or partial school closures.” The Cambridge study notes that the increase in depression rates is “statistically significant” and, thus, must be considered when creating pandemic-related policy moving forward. While there has not been a study examining the effects of school shutdowns and widespread lockdowns published in the US to date, studies in other countries echo the results of the UK study.
Despite the lack of research in the US about the impact of our 15-day lockdown, now nearing month eleven, there is a plethora of data available pointing to a troubling trend among American children. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) study on the cause of death for children ages 10-14, suicide is number 2 on the list, second to “death after unintentional injury.” The CDC lists the likelihood of suicide in this age group as 2.5 out of 100,000 children. Although these figures only consider data aggregated through 2017, not including more recent numbers surrounding COVID-19 shutdowns, the upward trend in suicide rates among this age group is shocking. In fact, the CDC reports a troubling statistic: the suicide rate among adolescents in the 10-14 age range has tripled from 2007 to 2017 and continues a steep upward trend.
Just a few days ago, Spencer Smith, a 16-year-old Maine teenager tragically took his life because of the isolation he felt due to being forced to stay home and away from his peers, according to a note he left his family. Spencer’s father told Fox News’ Laura Ingraham that his son struggled with remote learning and the lack of interaction with his teachers. Jay Smith goes on to explain that Spencer suffered when his school canceled their football season, something the teenager relished and trained for.
Mandatory lockdowns have been touted as the best way to keep Americans safe from the Coronavirus pandemic. As a country, we must protect our children, and that requires we follow the science. However, according to the science, it is more likely that a school-age child will lose his or her life to suicide than to Coronavirus. Based on data published by the CDC, a school-age child is almost 23 times more likely to die due to suicide (2.5 cases per 100,000) than to COVID-19 (0.11 cases per 100,000). In other words, death due to contracting the coronavirus would not even be in the top 10 causes of death in adolescents. We must urge policymakers to follow the science, which in this case, shows our children are much safer learning at school than they are learning from home. The cure cannot be worse than the disease.