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American Academy of Pediatricians: "Let them go back to school!"

COVID-19 is affecting children, but not in the way you might think. Kids' contraction of the virus is way lower than the adult rate, and their symptoms are usually mild. As well, there is evidence that children do not spread the virus as easily as adults due to not having major symptoms (such as a cough). However, rates are skyrocketing among young people for suicide, mental illness, child abuse, hunger, and obesity, and just about every other negative outcome you can think of.

From 2016-2018, the suicide rate among those aged 10-24 has already risen by 37%. It is only getting worse. Notice how in the chart above, the states with the most suicides are the states where families live in more isolated circumstances, and the states in which children live close together in big cities have the lowest suicide rates. This is no surprise--take a child out of school from his or her peers, and most will become very depressed. However, the article this chart is taken from notes that some of the "low" suicide rates in some states hide a massive increase. For instance, New Jersey has a relatively low suicide rate for ages 10-24, but it is up 39%, and New York in a similar way has a 44% increased rate. And this is before COVID-19.

The article this chart is taken from was published recently in Pediatric News, the monthly magazine for the American Academy of Pediatricians. The AAP strongly recommends sending children back to school in person, as keeping them home is causing way more harm than good, as if suicide rates were not bad enough already in young people, as the chart shows. This is not to mention abuse, obesity, hunger, and other issues.

Being careful about COVID-19 is very important, and no doubt masks and social distancing should be used in schools. But I just had a young lady in high school enter a mental hospital at my recommendation because of her extreme, constant suicidal thoughts. The main problem? Total isolation. She has very little support and human contact. Her mother works, but is still struggling to provide, and she lives in a remote, rural area where the neighborhood isn't very safe.

It's not just that children are affected by school shutdowns, it's that children are affected at much higher rates due to pre-existing issues made worse, such as poverty. And if anyone is going to say that the lives of Black children matter, people have to understand that the school lockdowns are disproportionately affecting Black children in a terrible way. As is well known (and argued over why), Black children already have reduced rates of access to healthcare providers.

My opinion here is not just based on personal experience. My wife is a family nurse practitioner who works in a pediatric clinic at the local health department, caring for the poorest children in our community, disproportionately minorities. She feels the same way. Take our word for it, but if you don't believe us, believe the opinion of the American Academy of Pediatricians. Kids need to be back in school, with appropriate safety measures like masks. The lockdown of schools is a case of "the cure being worse than the disease."

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