Coronavirus may be wrecking havoc on 2020, with hundreds of thousands dead worldwide. But according to the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention, the most lethal pandemic among young people in 2020 is not COVID-19, but suicide and drug overdose.
In an interview with the Buck Institute for Research on Aging last month, CDC director Robert Redfield explained that suicide and drug overdose have claimed more young lives throughout the pandemic than COVID-19 itself.
“We’re seeing, sadly, far greater suicides now than we are deaths from COVID,” Redfield explained. “We’re seeing far greater deaths from drug overdose that are above the excess that we had as background than we are seeing the deaths from COVID.”
It’s a convergence of three pandemics, and the result is devastating.
In a July 20 report, the American Medical Association revealed that over 35 states have reported an increase in “opioid-related mortality as well as ongoing concerns for those with a mental illness or substance use disorder.”
Suicide is the second leading cause of death among people ages 10 to 34 in the United States, according to the CDC. In 2018, suicide took the lives of nearly 15,000 people within that age bracket.
A 2019 report from the Public Health Institute warned that suicide rates among kids ages 10-14 has more than tripled in the last decade, while suicide rates among older teens has increased by 76 percent.
Redfield said the absence of schools is playing a major role in the exasperated number of deaths we’re seeing by suicide and drug overdose in 2020. General mental health difficulties that many young people face have only been made worse in isolation and grief throughout the coronavirus pandemic.
“You know, a lot of kids get their mental health services, over 7 million, in school,” Redfield explained. “A lot of people get food and nutrition in schools. Schools are really important in terms of mandatory reporting of sexual and child abuse. Obviously, socialization is important.”
He continued, saying that the “cost to our nation in continuing to keep these schools closed is substantial.”
Parents, now more than ever, we HAVE to be having conversations with our kids about mental health and suicide. It could literally be the difference between life and death for our children.