In the midst of a pandemic, child suicide is becoming a “international epidemic.”

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The damage we’re inflicting on children is too devastating to be waved away in the name of public health—it’s quickly becoming an emergency in its own right.

Billions of people across the globe continue to live under COVID-19 lockdowns or heavily-restricted life. And for almost all of us, life amid the pandemic in 2020 was an isolating and difficult year. Yet doctors are warning that children in particular are experiencing grave mental health consequences as a result of the lockdowns—leading to an “international epidemic” of child suicide. 

The Associated Pressinterviewed Dr. David Greenhorn on the subject, who works in the emergency department at England’s Bradford Royal Infirmary. The number of mental health crises he has seen, such as suicide attempts, has gone from a couple per week pre-pandemic to now several per day.

“This is an international epidemic, and we are not recognizing it,” Greenhorn said. “In an 8-year-old’s life, a year is a really, really, really long time. They are fed up. They can’t see an end to it.”

Dr. Richard Delorme heads the psychiatric department at one of the largest children’s hospitals in France, and he offered a similar warning to the AP.

Delorme pointed out that it is clearly COVID restrictions and lockdowns taking this toll on children that end up in his hospital: “What they tell you about is a chaotic world, of ‘Yes, I’m not doing my activities any more,’ ‘I’m no longer doing my music,’ ‘Going to school is hard in the mornings,’ ‘I am having difficulty waking up,’ ‘I am fed up with the mask.’”

Delorme’s hospital went from seeing roughly 20 suicide attempts per month involving patients 15 or younger, the AP reports, to more than double that—and, disturbingly, more determination than ever before in the attempts. 

“We are very surprised by the intensity of the desire to die among children who may be 12 or 13 years old,” Delorme said. “We sometimes have children of 9 who already want to die. And it’s not simply a provocation or a blackmail via suicide. It is a genuine wish to end their lives.”

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