Health Records in Virginia Show an Alarming Trend of Suicides in Schoolage Children as the State Remains Closed

AP Photo/Steve Helber

Lockdowns in the name of safety are creating a crisis with a serious magnitude.

As the Covid Pandemic continues to evolve the ever-shifting applications of various governmental restrictions have left parents and students in a condition of limbo. On a state-by-state basis we have seen differing standards applied, with some opening schools while others continue to keep them shuttered and students trapped at home. Virginia is one in particular where numerous proposed reopenings have been scuttled, with parents often the least listened-to component in the decision making. Now we are able to see some of the disastrous effects of these closures.

I spoke with Yael Levin-Sheldon, who is a parent who resides in Henrico County, Virginia. She also works as a data analyst and using various contacts she has been able to obtain the health records from her state to see if there is definable evidence of the harm being brought to students. What she has uncovered is rather jarring. Using the Freedom of Information Act Levin Sheldon has been able to look at the charts showing the incidents of suicide attempts and self-harm cases of children in her state, and the data is stark.

The motivation behind obtaining this information sprung up from the sheer frustrations experienced by Levin-Sheldon in her region. She runs groups for the parents of school children in her area and not only has she seen increased anxiety and frustration from these parents but she noted a darker trend occurring. She was receiving a growing number of those coming to them anonymously with stories of children who have been threatening themselves over the prolonged removal from schools.

As a result, Levin-Sheldon began to look into the veracity of these stories. Through the FOIA request, the spreadsheet obtained (viewable here) covers all of the patient health districts in Virginia and over the course of the past four years of admissions. The chart provides both the numbers of admissions for suicides and/or self-harm visits to emergency departments, as well as the rates of these particular admissions per 10,000 ED visits. These tell the story of what is happening to the children in Virginia.

In many counties the number of visits for suicide/self-harm has gone up — some dramatically — but the most glaring stat is that of the rates of these visits. Almost every single health district has seen these rates rising, a telling sign of the strife. This shift is due to the fact that general hospital visits during the pandemic have scaled back significantly, as more people have been fearful of spread. For the rates of these self-harm visits to rise indicates that the number of these cases has been on the rise against an ebbing tide of hospital demand.

Now factor in that for the first portion of 2020 the pandemic, and its effects, had not been fully realized. The reality of a spread of Covid-19 did not gain real traction until March of last year, with school closings regarded as a temporary event. Once you consider that it was not until April or May when the extended shutdown commands were put into place you then get a sense of how this is an even more concentrated timeframe for these increases to take effect.

The crisis is also revealed in an interactive chart measuring suicides, at the United Health Foundation. In the state of Virginia, since 2017, the average suicide rate for the age group was hovering near 13-14 per 100K residents. In 2020 there has been a sharp increase, to now over 17 per 100K. This number exceeds the national average, while in most other age groups that state is below the national figure.

Between the state leaders, the school boards, and the teachers in Virginia the wavering and perpetual closures have been in effect with a lacking amount of parental input. The current plan sees a possibility of schools opening in Virginia, once teachers and staff can be vaccinated – with a tentative opening to take place in March. But now there are calls from some of the leadership to keep schools closed until students are vaccinated, a decision that would keep schools closed until next fall. 

These officials need to become keenly aware of the effects they are having on the mental and emotional well being of the students in their state. Keeping them out of schools, in the name of their safety, is compounding the dangers they are visiting upon a growing number of the fragile minds they claim to care about with these mandates.