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Youth suicides may be on the rise as students return to school, study suggests

A study suggests students are less likely to die by suicide when they are not physically in school.

HALLOWELL, Maine — We have heard time and time again how isolating the COVID-19 pandemic has been for many people, but some adolescents may be feeling differently. 

“We've seen the pandemic make an impact on mental health just in general,” Angela Haley from Northern Light Health Acadia Hospital said.

She added that some teenagers actually thrived while learning from home, and returning to in-person learning was difficult for them.

This echoes a recent study by the National Bureau of Economic Research, which found that students 12 to 18 years old were dying by suicide at a higher rate upon returning to in-person learning at schools. (This study has not yet been peer-reviewed and will not be officially published until that happens.)

“In-person learning has increased some anxiety levels," Haley said. "Being at home and learning at home was a solution temporarily to some anxietiessocial anxiety, for example."

Mental health leaders at NAMI Maine said it's not that simple to determine why young people are dying by suicide.

“Any study that tries to compare in school versus out, COVID time versus not COVID time, is simplifying a very, very complex story,” Greg Marley of NAMI Maine said.

The study goes on to say that school closures and online learning could have disrupted bullying patterns. But of course, many teenagers have a smartphone and can contribute to or be affected by cyberbullying. 

“The relative anonymity of social media makes it easier for people to become bullies,” Marley said. 

But cyberbullying isn’t as big of a deal when students are learning from home. and when they get back to the classroom, they are more likely to see their classmates and then go home and bully them online.

Experts said that if students don't see each other in person, cyberbullying still happens but not nearly as much.

If you or someone you know is experiencing suicidal thoughts, there are resources right here in Maine that can help navigate through those thoughts and find a path to hope.

Maine Crisis Hotline: 1-888-568-1112

Click here for a list of resources by county

Maine teen text support
This peer support text line is for Maine youth 13 to 24 years old and is staffed by individuals 18 to 24. Talk about your feelings and get support from another young person. Daily from noon to 10 p.m. EST at 207-515-8398.


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