The pandemic’s effects on mental health are well-documented and evolving. Suicide attempts among teen girls increased by nearly 50% in the early months of 2021 compared to the same period in 2019. This significant increase both begs the question of why teen girls were so deeply impacted by the events of 2020 and shines a light on the tenderness of their age.
According to a recent government study, ER visits for suspected suicide attempts among girls between the ages of 12 and 17 increased by 26% during summer 2020 and 50% during winter 2021. The CDC found that suicide attempts among boys and young men in the same age group remained stable during the same time period.
It’s important to note that suicide deaths of both boys and girls have remained consistent. Researchers believe this may result from families spending more time at home together, which allowed parents, adults, and caregivers an opportunity to become more aware of a change in behaviors or suicidal thoughts. Therefore, they may have been more available to take their children to the emergency department.
Young girls may have been more affected by the lockdowns because they broke connections to friends, schools, teachers, and social activities. An overreliance on the comparison-driven culture on social media is a dangerous replacement for true friendships, social interactions, and genuine connections.
It’s also true that people have had a harder time seeking mental health treatment during the pandemic. There has been a reported increase in substance abuse, and financial issues and health concerns have crippled families.
“We are all at some degree of risk for mental health problems like depression and anxiety – and what elicits that underlying risk are often external variables: substances, trauma, illness or even medications, among others,” said Dr. Timothy Sullivan, chair of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Staten Island University Hospital, in New York City.
“But one of the most robust findings in the last 30 years of research on mood disorders is that disturbances in our social rhythms significantly increase the risk – even predict – the development of major depressive episodes,” Sullivan said.
“This is why mental health experts have been concerned about the accumulating emotional burden caused by the effects of the pandemic on our habits and social interactions, and especially for children and adolescents for whom social interactions and peer involvement are crucial both for their healthy development and their emotional well-being,” added Sullivan.
As teenagers and children now transition back into their social lives, it can be difficult for them to discuss how they feel about what they lost during the past year and how it feels to be among their friends again. They may be filled with mixed emotions – as many adults are – elation with lingering fear. Is it safe, after all this time, to touch, hug, and laugh together again? There isn’t a quick cure or a vaccination that can prevent the residual effects that we as a global society and individuals are experiencing now.
Let’s also remind ourselves that this is a period of transition unlike any that the universal “we” have ever experienced. It’s tempting to beat ourselves up as parents, partners, and people, but it’s better to lift each up. At Zier Institute, we see the power of this in our online and in-person social groups. For teen girls, boys, young adults, and teens – these groups provide a safe place to be yourself, find real connections, and work through the emotions that maybe no one else in their life quite understands.
We didn’t get through the pandemic alone, and we will not transition to healthy post-pandemic mental health alone. Zier Institute is ready to find the right social group or therapy plan for your child and family today.