Home > Uncategorized > Did School Closures Result in a Suicide Surge… or is this ANOTHER Example of COVID Uncovering a Pre-Existing Condition?

Did School Closures Result in a Suicide Surge… or is this ANOTHER Example of COVID Uncovering a Pre-Existing Condition?

January 25, 2021

Yesterday’s NYTimes featured an op ed by Erica Green describing a surge in suicides in Clark County NV that many are attributing to the closure of schools due to the pandemic… and yet, a close reading of the article could lead one to conclude that it is yet another underlying problem of public education that COVID uncovered.

As noted in earlier posts and countless articles, the pandemic has compelled policy makers to at long last face underlying problems that impact public schools. The “digital divide” and the inequities in resources and funding for schools have been in place for decades… but they are now laid bare when schools are closed. Schools have long served as the core provider of balanced meals, social and health services, and child care— yet until the pandemic came along these benefits of universal schooling were largely overlooked or, at best, take for granted.

Ms. Greene’s article described some of the other benefits of schooling. First, public schools provide an opportunity for caring adults to monitor the well-being of students— something that is impossible if a child doesn’t log, doesn’t share their picture on Zoom, or is only visible from the neck up. Second, public schools provide healthy social and  emotional outlets for students. Athletics, music, clubs, or just hanging out on playgrounds are all ways children and teens engage socially and emotionally. Many of the case studies cited in Ms. Green’s article missed those opportunities as much– or more– than they missed classes. Finally, schools offer counseling and health to those who require it— services that are far more effective when they are delivered in person than online.

Finally, the surge in unemployment that resulted from the pandemic in and of itself likely had SOME effect on the well-being of children. As Ms. Green notes, the skyrocketing unemployment in Las Vegas, which is dependent on visitors from afar, led to all kinds of family stress. The impact of unemployment is bad in normal circumstances… but when combined with the closure of schools it is even worse.

The bottom line is this: when schools DO reopen and we no longer have to be quarantined, will we remember the need for funding equity? For digital access for all? For counseling, health, and social services in schools? Will the “return to normal” that results from an end to quarantines result in a “return to normal” everywhere else or will we remember the lessons the pandemic has presumably taught us?

%d bloggers like this: