Editorial – The loss of our kids

VALE – Within the last month, my local area has been hit with a tragic death of a high school student due to suicide. Just across the border in Idaho, two high school students in one small community made the decision to end their young lives. If their final decisions were related to the isolation, the fear, the hopelessness felt during this period of COVID-19, no one will ever know. But one thing we can agree, what is happening now is having a tremendous negative effect on your youth.

For all the jokes bantered about on how teens spend on all their time on Snapchat, Instagram or Tik Tok, the truth is our teens miss the social interaction of school and sports offered just one year ago. I can speak to this subject with authority as I am the father of a middle school student, one missing school, missing friends and missing going to games.

The National 4-H Council, a nonpolitical association, recently requested a poll from the Harris Poll company. The findings, though not unexpected, are still shocking.

Seven out of 10 teens state they are currently struggling with mental health during this time of COVID-19. Teens are thinking of each other during this time as 81% believe mental health is a major issue for other teens in the country.

Are you worried yet? 55% of teens are experiencing or have experienced anxiety. 45% report excessive stress. 43% of those teens in your school or the school down the road said they were depressed.

Our students are also thinking of the future. 64% of those in the survey think this current generation will experience long-term mental health issues stemming from our current conditions.

Without in-person school, sporting events, practices and other school activities, students are now spending 75% (9 hours a day) looking at a screen according to recent statistics. Many have not seen friends or teammates, in-person, for close to one year now.

The other issue facing today’s teens is finding help. Struggling with online classes is experienced by many. However, emailing a teacher for assistance or a Zoom conference with a counselor is typically not the answer for many students. The survey found 71% found online schooling made students feel anxious or depressed. A full two-thirds of those questioned said as problems continued to come about, they kept the feeling to themselves, pretended to feel better around others and dealt with the feelings on their own.

The study also found teens are looking to fix these problems just as they are learning geometry-the computer screen. 46% said they are searching social media for answers and coping techniques to their feelings during the pandemic.

I can state we have already lost kids in every school we cover. Speaking to parents, teachers and school administrators frequently, I constantly hear of student names that have just disappeared. These students may have been on the online classes last spring, but now have just dropped off.

It is fair to say some students drop out even in the best of times. But, every coach in eastern Oregon can tell a story of at least one student staying in school just for the sake of sports. The drive to be with friends on a team, the goal to complete a season can be that one kick to keep one student in the classroom. In today’s world, it appears that student is lost.

We as parents, teachers, administrators, school board members, government officials and health professionals need to be better. We are losing a group of young adults.

This would be an easy piece to write if discussing COVID rates, masks, social distancing or two week lockdowns. It is not easy to write when discussing a child looking to be part of a team who has just dropped off the face of the earth.

National Suicide Hotline – 800 273 8255

Crisis Text Line – Text HOME to 741741

Youthline – Text teen2teen to 839863

The Trevor Project – 866 488-7386 or text START to 678678