New data reveals that the world’s response to Covid-19 is having a dramatic toll on young people’s mental health.  The sobering figures indicate their quality of life has significantly dropped.  There is already data that shows an increase in drug overdose deaths, amid lockdowns and economic uncertainty.  Moreover, statistically, every US$10 million to $24 million lost in Amercainb incomes results in one additional death, according to established economic data.  This new study helps to paint a fuller picture of the impact of the health response to Covid-19. 

The study results indicate that the number of young people developing symptoms of anxiety within the United States has tripled since a year ago. Even more concerning, 25.5 percent of Americans aged 18 to 24 have seriously considered suicide during the Covid-19 pandemic, in part due to stay-at-home orders.  The prevalence of depressive disorder is also approximately four times that reported in the second quarter of 2019.  The new data was released by the Center for Disease Control (CDC) last Thursday, and analysed 5,412 survey responses in late June 2020.  

Anxiety, depression and a general lack of hope is likely related to increased uncertainty for young people, rather than worry about catching the virus itself.  Their job prospects are much reduced.  They don’t know if college, sports teams, part-time jobs will start and then stop once more.  Some young people rely on others, such as their school, for meals, education and safety.  Will they be stuck inside or allowed out to see their friends?  Will they have to wear a mask outside for the rest of their lives?  There is a myriad of conflicting information and opinion to sift through.

The huge impact on the mental health of young people, now made even more evident by studies such as this one, must be taken into account as governments grapple with the right way to respond to this virus. The study authors advise that interventions to reduce suicide deaths should target financial strain, racial discrimination, social connectedness, and community supports for patients considering suicide.  Are there ways governmental policy responses can provide greater certainty for young people?

Though it is hard to control governmental decisions, the actions of others, or viruses, perhaps young people can take some heart in the learning and reflections of Viktor Frankl through his suffering which must surely have also caused him an absolute lack of certainty and control:

“Instead of possibilities, I have realities in my past, not only the reality of work done and of love loved, but of sufferings bravely suffered. These sufferings are even the things of which I am most proud, although these are things which cannot inspire envy.”

“Life is never made unbearable by circumstances, but only by lack of meaning and purpose.”

Indeed, if young people are looking for a silver lining, perhaps they can see this pandemic as an early lesson that life is never really certain – indeed it is better approached with a certain level of detachment, faith and, ultimately, love.

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Shannon Roberts

Shannon Roberts is co-editor of MercatorNet's blog on population issues, Demography is Destiny. While she has a background as a barrister, writing has been a life-long passion and she has contributed...