The number of people under age 24 who have killed themselves compared to last year rose nearly 90% in Dane County, Wisconsin, the state’s second most populous county.
The number of young people in Dane County who have died by suicide rose from eight in all of 2019 to 15 in 2020 as of mid-September, according to the Wisconsin State Journal. The county’s five-year average for annual suicides among ages 24 and younger is 10.
Suicide rates have spiked among other age groups as well, according to Hannah Flanagan, the director of emergency services for Journey Mental Health Center in Madison, Wisconsin.
Flanagan pinpointed the socially isolating effects of COVID-19 lockdowns as a contributing factor in the troubling statistic. “When people are lonely, it’s really hard to cope,” she said. “The specificity about COVID social distancing and isolation that we’ve come across as contributing factors to the suicides are really new to us this year.” Crisis calls to the center, she said, are up 15% since the pandemic began.
Dr. Katie Schmitt, medical director at UnityPoint Health-Meriter’s Child and Adolescent Psychiatric Hospital in Madison, Wisconsin, also noticed an increase in the number of children seeking mental health treatment, claiming July saw a 25% increase in the number of admissions.
“The social isolation, the lack of success in virtual schooling, the lack of ability to connect with staff at school — not one kid comes here that doesn’t have that as current, significant stressors,” Schmitt said.
Dr. Katy Cahill, a pediatrician in Madison, told the State Journal, “I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve heard parents say that they feel like their children have wilted. We definitely have seen an uptick in mental health concerns across all ages, which is really sad and concerning to us.”
According to a CDC survey released in August, more than a quarter of those surveyed between the ages of 18-24 had “seriously considered” killing themselves during a 30-day period.
Young people are not the only ones suffering from the mental anguish seemingly linked to the loneliness of interminable lockdown.
A group of longterm-care residents at a nursing home in Greeley, Colorado, protested outside their residence last week in opposition to lingering state lockdown restrictions that keep them from having physical contact with their loved ones.
Approximately 20 residents, many in wheelchairs, gathered outside Fairacres Manor on Thursday, according to CBS4 Denver. Some of the handwritten signs they held read, “Prisoners in our own home” and “Give us freedom.”
One resident’s sign stated simply that she would rather die from COVID-19 than loneliness.
The Fairacres Resident Council organized the event, according to CBS4. Resident Council President Sharon Peterson told the outlet, “We used to be lucky here at Fairacres to show each other what we mean to one another and we cannot do that anymore. Fairacres follows the rules and, with that, we think they would keep us safe while being able to be with our families again.”
“We did this because one thing we have to look forward to is a simple hug,” Peterson added. “It gives us meaning.”