That fall, when most school districts decided not to reopen, more parents spoke up. The parents of a 14-year-old boy in Maryland who killed himself in October described how her son “gave up” after his district decided not to return in the fall. In December, an 11-year-old boy in Sacramento shot himself during his zoom class. Weeks later, the father of a teenager in Maine attributed his son’s suicide to isolation the pandemic.
“We knew he was upset because he could no longer participate in his school activity, soccer,” Jay Smith told a local TV station. “We never thought it was that bad.”
President Biden has put in place a solid plan to expedite vaccinations, expand coronavirus testing, and spend billions of dollars to help district reopen most of their schools in his first 100 days in office.
By then, children in districts like Clark County with more than 300,000 students will not have attended school for more than a year.
“It feels like we’re running out of time every day,” said Dr. Jara.
On the road to the pandemic, youth suicide rates had increased for a decade. Until 2018, suicide was the second leading cause of death for teenagers and young adults after accidents. And the newest Behavioral Risk Survey, which was published last year by the C.D.C. and tracks student health trends and shows a steady increase over the past decade in the percentage of students reporting persistent feelings of sadness or hopelessness and those who planned and attempted suicide.
Since the lockdowns, districts have been reporting suicide clusters, Dr. Massetti from the C.D.C. said, and many said they struggled to connect students to services.
“Without personal tuition, there is a void that is not being filled right now,” she said.
Suzie Button, the senior clinical director for high school programs at the Jed Foundation, a New York-based nonprofit engaged in suicide prevention, said hundreds of schools and colleges – including Clark County’s – are involved with of the organization have partnered to provide better service to students during this time the pandemic.