Two nights ago I walked into my bedroom to find my 16-year-old daughter sitting cross-legged, hunched over on my bed, tears running down her pale face, sobs coming out of her mouth. She doesn’t want to go on with school work, communicating, or with life in general.
She has been spending a vast majority of time in her darkened room lately, really only coming out when asked too. She was feeling and according to her has been feeling completely and utterly lost and is at this point not even bothering with the struggle to find her way out.
She said, “The only reason I don’t kill myself is that I know how much it would hurt the rest of you.”
She still lives through the pain of a close friend committing suicide two years ago. As with other students in NH, she has been doing her school work from home, and not enjoying it. An honor roll student now barely passing!
She has lost her social circle which she had just been building having transferred to a new high school one month prior to the shutdown. I was a bit surprised given the fact that those in her age group do a lot of their connecting via social media; perhaps her connections were not strong enough yet to carry over to this social distancing lifestyle.
“Teenagers and college students have amplified innate, developmental motivations that make them hard to isolate at home. The hormonal changes that come with puberty conspire with adolescent social dynamics to make them highly attuned to social status and peer group.”
To make matters worse her grandparents locked down their home to all visitors 6 weeks ago.
When my daughter and I dropped groceries off at their door on April 1 my mother did what she has been doing but which my daughter, however, had not yet experienced. She cracked a window and talked to us through that. My daughter stood there and cried, her arms wrapped tightly around herself. When asked why she said, “Grandma, I just want to give you a hug.”
Of course, a hug was out of the question in my mother’s opinion. Her granddaughter who has been at home for weeks and hasn’t even been in a store wasn’t allowed to hug her, she who also had also not been out of her home!
My daughter’s tears and disappointment over that continue to this day. Her grandmother has early-stage Alzheimer’s disease, we are very aware that she could lose cognition at any time, the ability to make memories with her are disappearing.
According to Carolyn Snell, Ph.D., when she answered the question of “Why are teens having such a hard time social distancing, if they’re always on their devices anyway?”
“One thing these times may be teaching us is that we and our teens have been undervaluing how important face-to-face interactions are. From the perspective of our brains and emotions, there’s no digital equivalent to just hanging out. That said, teens can benefit greatly from staying in virtual touch with their friends or having safe in-person interactions that maintain social distancing, like a bike ride with a friend.”
My daughter is in driver ed. They are meeting online and no driving is occurring (of course), though 3 people in a car with it being wiped down after would be pretty darn simple to do! She had aspirations of getting her license in May and getting a summer job. All of that is on hold! Plans crushed. A teenager’s dreams of independence, crushed.
Search the internet and you find thousands of articles on helping teens cope, supporting them during this time, and mental health and wellbeing during Covid-19.
Instagram and NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) are working together to connect the teens to mental health support resources. But if the other teens are feeling as my daughter is they don’t care for the help. My daughter doesn’t want to talk to her counselor, in fact, she doesn’t want to take any suggestions I make.
I should add that I used to be a NAMI volunteer and have worked in residential treatment facilities for youth who are struggling with mental health and behavioral struggles, so I am not new to what can be done to help, in “normal” times that is.
My daughter is not struggling with watching parents lose jobs, pay bills, or buy food. She has not gone through not being able to say goodbye to a passing loved one, and since we do not have TV she isn’t being exposed to the constant fear-mongering of the news and the commercials that are relentless! Can you imagine the added stress those cause?
In 2019 NH had 11.9 teen suicides (ages 15-19) per 100,000. In 2018 the Concord Monitor reported “suicide is the second leading cause of death for individuals under 24 years old. But New Hampshire’s rates are 50 percent higher than the national average, and they’re spiking.”
In Jan 2020 $735k in Federal funding was Awarded to NAMI NH to support youth suicide prevention, this is how big the problem was considered prior to Covid-19.
In an article titled Suicide Mortality and Coronavirus Disease 2019- A Perfect Storm’? Mark A. Reger PhD, Ian H. Stanley MS and Thomas E. Joiner, PhD point out the stark reality…
“Leading theories of suicide emphasize the key role that social connections play in suicide prevention. Individuals experiencing suicidal ideation may lack connections to other people and often disconnect from others as suicide risk rises. Suicidal thoughts and behaviors are associated with social isolation and loneliness. Therefore, from a suicide prevention perspective, it is concerning that the most critical public health strategy for the COVID-19 crisis is social distancing. Furthermore, family and friends remain isolated from individuals who are hospitalized, even when their deaths are imminent. To the extent that these strategies increase social isolation and loneliness, they may increase suicide risk.”
They go on to touch on another issue that has affected my daughter, who used to attend church regularly with the grandmother that she now can’t hug.
“Many Americans attend various community or religious activities. Weekly attendance at religious services has been associated with a 5-fold lower suicide rate compared with those who do not attend. The effects of closing churches and community centers may further contribute to social isolation and hence suicide.”
While all the focus is on the opening of the state in order to help our businesses, our people financially and so forth we are neglecting the impact on a large number of people in the state of NH. 12% of the NH population in 2018 were youth ages 10-19. How many young lives are we devastating, and perhaps causing long term damage to with numbers that look like:
- 1.35M residents in NH
- 66 Covid-19 deaths
- Percentage of NH residents that have NOT died of Covid19 – 99.99995%
I implore you, Governor Sununu, to OPEN NH! You are destroying our state in a multitude of ways! This “lockdown” is going to have ripple effects for years to come! Are you prepared to have on your shoulders the teen suicides that could stem from this?
LET OUR PEOPLE GO!