Surge of Student Suicides Pushes Las Vegas Schools to Reopen

The reminders of pandemic-driven suffering among students in Clark County, Nev., have come in droves. Since schools shut their doors in March, an early-warning system that monitors students’ mental health episodes has sent more than 3,100 alerts to district officials, raising alarms about suicidal thoughts, possible self-harm or cries for care. By December, 18 students had taken their own lives. The spate of student suicides in and around Las Vegas has pushed the Clark County district, the nation’s fifth largest, toward bringing students back as quickly as possible. This month, the school board gave the green light to phase in the return of some elementary school grades and groups of struggling students. Over the summer … Dr. Robert R. Redfield, then the C.D.C. director, warned that a rise in adolescent suicides would be one of the “substantial public health negative consequences” of school closings. Mental health advocacy groups warned that the student demographics at the most risk for mental health declines before the pandemic – such as Black children and L.G.B.T.Q. students – were among those most marginalized by the school closures. But given the politically charged atmosphere this summer, many of those warnings were dismissed as scare tactics. Parents of students who have taken their lives say connecting suicide to school closings became almost taboo.

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