On June 2, 2020, India marked the first COVID-19-related student suicide. A 15-year old girl awarded “academic brilliance” by her school committed suicide after being unable to participate in the online classes or watch television lessons as she did not have a well-functioning television at home, neither a smartphone.
Reports have pointed out that the latter committed suicide while being under pressure that her academic performance would weaken as she had missed many online classes.
Many occurrences have made 2020 a tough year, in particular for the education sector. COVID-19 pandemic has forced governments of countries worldwide to announce border closures and restricted movement, as well as educational institutions to transition to online learning as preventative measures to curb the further spread of the virus.
All these new policies have affected the whole student body, including international students, Erudera College News reports.
Many of the latter have struggled in securing appointments at embassies or visa issuance, remaining anxious about losing their scholarships or university places. Others have reported experiencing mental health issues as a result of isolation and absence of social contact, and in-person study experience.
With schools, universities, and colleges closing, one of the most negative consequences in students’ mental health amid pandemic is committing suicide. As the pandemic continues to spread, an increase in the number of youngsters taking their own lives has been noted, which has, in fact, been increasing for the last decade.
According to the American College Health Association (ACHA), since 1995, the suicide rate among young adults between the age of 15-24 has tripled. By 2018, suicide became the second most common cause of young adults’ death, with accidents being the first.
Several Studies Suggest Pandemic Has Significantly Worsened Students’ Mental Health
A study published in Biological Psychiatry showed that teens, as well as kids whose brains are still developing, have less capacity to adapt to stressful situations triggered by the Coronavirus pandemic. This could cause anxiety and depression to these individuals in situations like the one created by the pandemic.
Researchers at the Duke-NUS Medical School in Singapore have stressed that 1 in 3 adults, in particular women, younger adults, as well as individuals with lower economic status, have experienced anxiety and depression as a consequence of the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to a poll conducted by UK’s only independent think tank focused on higher education, the Higher Education Policy Institute (HEPI), in collaboration with Youthsight, including 1,000 full-time undergraduate students, 58 per cent of them reported their mental health has been affected ever since the pandemic emerged.
Whereas, another study conducted by a group of neuroscientists has shown that university and college students living in Canada aged 15-25 years have also stated that their mental health has worsened amid the pandemic.
Of more than 67,000 college students from over 100 institutions who participated in a study published in Depression and Anxiety, one in five students thought of committing suicide, 9 per cent attempted to commit, while almost 20 per cent reported self-injury.
Universities Considering to Reopen to Students to Prevent Suicides
Following the increase in the number of student suicides, several education institutions in countries across the world are considering reopening to students.
Recently, Nevada’s Clark County School District announced it would be speeding up the plans on bringing international students back to continue face-to-face lessons.
The Clark County School District, including Las Vegas, has been experiencing a series of suicides since the remote learning began in March, the New York Times reported.
A school official told CNN that a total of 19 suicides had been reported in the district, compared to nine suicides registered during the previous year.
Data have shown that six students committed suicide between March 16 and June 30, while 12 other students died by suicide between July 1 and December 31, with the youngest student to commit suicide being nine years old.
In addition, through the district’s mental health monitoring system, the administrators were alerted about 3,100 potential suicides or students needing mental health support. This has pushed the school district to consider returning in-person classes for high-risk students.
“Before the pandemic occurred, we knew something was wrong. Now, there are concerns that increased isolation due to the pandemic and other triggers for mental illness will make the situation even worse,” Stephen Brock, professor and school psychology program coordinator at California State University-Sacramento.
Student representatives in the United Kingdom have also warned about Coronavirus affecting student mental health.
“There was a mental health crisis across universities prior to the pandemic. Students were not being given adequate support or access to mental health services, and the pandemic has only exacerbated these issues.” Sara Khan, NUS vice president for equality and liberation, told PoliticsHome.
That students are having difficulties in maintaining their mental health is also shown by statistics published by Nightline, which is a student-run listening service operating at UK universities.
The number of calls related to loneliness, conflicts with friends and family has tripled between March and April this year, while the number of those reporting academic stress has doubled.
“We’ve seen more use out of our phone lines than actually through our instant messaging service,” coordinator of Nottingham University’s Nightline, Beth Scahill.
In November 2020, the Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction, Kathy Hoffman, expressed concerns about school-age children suicides amid pandemic.
That time, she mentioned 43 suicides of people under the age of 17 in Arizona, some as young as 13, an increase from 38 in 2019.
According to data by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 63 per cent of 18- and 24-year-olds have reported anxiety or depression due to COVID-19, while 25 per cent pointed out that they have had suicidal thoughts.