New research out of China is suggesting that primary-school students experienced more depressive symptoms and attempted suicide more often after schools shuttered their doors due to the novel coronavirus pandemic.
The study, which was published in JAMA Network Open, compared more than twelve hundred survey reports dealing with mental health issues before the pandemic began in November and mid-May.
What the researchers from Anhui Medical University discovered was that about one in four students reported depressive symptoms in May, while only 19 percent did in November.
Even more concerning was that suicide attempts had surged more than twofold—at 6.4 percent in May compared to 3 percent in November.
The study’s authors are hoping that school officials will utilize the important findings to prepare the necessary mental health services to help the children.
In the United States, for the sake of children’s mental health, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) spearheaded a push for students to be physically present in classrooms rather than relying solely on remote learning.
“The AAP strongly advocates that all policy considerations for the coming school year should start with a goal of having students physically present in school,” the group, which represents and guides pediatricians across the country, said on its website.
“The importance of in-person learning is well-documented, and there is already evidence of the negative impacts on children because of school closures in the spring of 2020. Lengthy time away from school and associated interruption of supportive services often results in social isolation, making it difficult for schools to identify and address important learning deficits as well as child and adolescent physical or sexual abuse, substance use, depression, and suicidal ideation.”
The ongoing pandemic has impacted the mental health of adults as well. A recent study has revealed that nearly a quarter of the U.S. population is currently experiencing symptoms related to depression—that’s roughly three times the number before the viral outbreak began.
Medical experts are in agreement that when a population experiences something highly traumatic, such as natural disasters or terrorist attacks, mental-illness cases are expected to climb in the weeks and months following the event.
In nationwide surveys conducted before the outbreak, 9 percent of the respondents reported depressive symptoms. Once the pandemic started, that percentage soared to 28 percent.
Moreover, suicide rates in the United States were trending higher before coronavirus arrived—and medical experts are now concerned that the pandemic has the potential to increase those numbers.
Ethen Kim Lieser is a Minneapolis-based Science and Tech Editor who has held posts at Google, The Korea Herald, Lincoln Journal Star, AsianWeek and Arirang TV. Follow or contact him on LinkedIn.