Parents Warned about Rise of Suicide Attempts, Eating Disorders Amid COVID-19 Pandemic

Photo: (Photo : Sharon McCutcheon)

Children and teenagers are craving for their lives back. In particular, they miss their social life, circle of friends, and generally life in the outdoors. Many milestones missed during the pandemic include prom, graduation, and even birthdays could no longer be an excuse to see their friends. As the children of this generation crave real connections, their lives disintegrate faster, leading to a rise in suicide attempts and eating disorders amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Suicide Attempts are More Serious During COVID-19 Pandemic

As the pandemic struck, the Penn State Children's Hospital saw a jump in the number of local children attempting suicide, ABC 27 reported. Moreover, the healthcare experts noted that the serious nature of the suicide attempts has become more worrisome.

Dr. Taran Jolly of the Penn State Children's Hospital revealed that while pre-pandemic children who attempted suicide tried to overdose on 3 to 5 tablets, during the pandemic, kids are overdosing on as much as 300 tablets.

The healthcare experts talked openly about the greater need to help children and adolescents during the pandemic. Sadly, the children are no longer attempting suicide to show they need help. Dr. Jolly added that this time, the kids are gravely serious about the fact that they want to end it all.

Since the pandemic, 2-3 children come into the hospital daily due to suicide attempts. The kids are between ages 10 and 18. More often than not, the children end up in the ICU due to severe injuries. Dr. Jolly notes "social isolation" as the major factor taking a huge toll on children. High school students, in particular, feel uncertain about their future, NPR reported.

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Anorexic Disorders Amid COVID-19 Pandemic Now Require Intense Therapy

Right now, therapy cannot happen in-person, making it more difficult for doctors to reach out to children who are struggling with eating disorders. The numbers are alarming as well as the gravity of the disorders. Now, the children and adolescents need intense therapy, though social distancing makes it more challenging to accomplish this.

Dr. Jolly further cites another problem, which is the cancellation and elimination of many of the healthy outlets of kids to let out their frustrations. Moreover, many children and adolescents have a home life that makes the COVID-19 pandemic worse and even more unbearable than it already is. For instance, in the past, kids and teens can escape whenever there are arguments at home which is no longer an option now.

Doctors at the Hospital for Sick Children in Ottawa, Toronto noted a significant jump in outpatient treatment and admissions, which more than doubled since the pandemic. Now, children are showing more acute physical and mental distress than in past cases, Dr. Debra Katzman, co-founder of SickKids eating disorder program, revealed, so much so that the demand is overwhelming.

Christina Bartha of the Community Mental Health SickKids Centre revealed the main reasons for the disparities in the condition of children pre-pandemic and during the COVID-19 pandemic. Batha cites stress, unhealthy eating habits, lack of exercise, and social media exposure on top of school disruption and isolation as major contributors to the worsening case of children.

Further, the Toronto hospital expects a 60% rise in referred outpatients during the pandemic. These would include cases of eating disorders similar to anorexia, including avoidant and restrictive food intake disorder.

ALSO READ: Online Learning is Making Our Kids Sick, Doctors Reveal

Signs to Watch out For

Healthcare experts encourage parents to observe their children for any changes to their concentration, mood, sleep patterns, and appetite. Such as, did their physique change? Are they eating in the bathroom or started eating alone in their room?

Also, now that children are missing social connections outside of the home, it is important now more than ever to connect with them as a family. Experts recommend not to let children isolate themselves while at home. Let them connect with family and friends through FaceTime and other digital means where they can still do activities together. 

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