Disconnection from virtual school and disconnection from life: adolescent suicide creates a “parallel pandemic”


PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) – Some schools in Hampton Roads are open while others are closed for the second time.

This week, Virginia Beach Schools, on short notice, returned to virtual learning only.

Some extracurricular activities are canceled and children cannot even reach out and touch a friend to celebrate a victory or shed tears after a loss. The changes are virtual, but the disruptions are real.

Sadly, mental health professionals say some teens are disconnecting from online learning – and disconnecting from life itself. Long hours are spent on the phone or teleconference, comforting family members, friends and even teachers who are overcome with grief.

“Parents are calling and family members are calling because they don’t know where to go or who to turn to. They want to blame themselves [and they question] “Should I have seen the signs and what did I do wrong?” Said Whitteney Guyton, owner Synergy of health systems in Portsmouth.

Mental Health Professional Whitteney Guyton
(Photo courtesy: Whitteney Guyton)

The number of lives claimed by the virus is making headlines daily, but child suicide has created what the mental health community is calling a ‘parallel pandemic’. The Disease Control Centers It is estimated that before the pandemic, 2,000 children between the ages of 14 and 18 committed suicide each year.

So far, official figures for the suicide rate among children and adolescents during the pandemic are unclear, although some small groups anecdotal research indicates crisis worsened during pandemic.

“When you have a loss [due to teen suicide] it affects a lot of people. Sometimes there is never clarity or closure. Once a suicide occurs, that death is so limitless that you simply have no response. The person who faces it has to deal with it for the rest of their life, ”Guyton said.

Guyton encourages parents to be vigilant, especially for teens who spend a lot of time alone in their bedrooms.

“So if you have a kid that’s still in their room, stop by. You have to check them out, ”Guyton said.

As vaccines offer hope, she urges families to be creative in developing athletic challenges or skills for children at home.

“We have to realize that we cannot let the internet and social media raise our children,” Guyton said.

If a parent, overwhelmed by their own pandemic issues, is unable to help during a crisis, parents should contact a professional who can offer immediate help.

“If there’s some type of mental health emergency, you can always dial 911,” said Guyton, who is developing a free mental health app for the community.

Parents and children can also contact the National lifeline for suicide prevention at 1-800-273-8255.


Perry A. Thomasson