Some raise concerns about student mental health as masks return

Via Peters

When the subject of masks in schools comes up, invariably so does the topic of mental health. “We’re seeing mental health issues, we’re seeing behavioral issues,” said Johnson County Commissioner Charlotte O’Hara at Thursday’s Board of County Commissioners meeting.O’Hara cited children’s mental health as one reason she didn’t want to require masks in schools.She used her time at the meeting to ask Johnson County’s health director, “are you aware that the suicide rate among adolescent girls from 12-17 has risen by 51% since 2019?”But that’s false. One: the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that is suicide attempts, not actual suicides, which is an important difference. And two: that’s a national statistic.During the public comment session, a man stood up and announced, “Mental health matters. There may not be any deaths from COVID, but there’s an 800%, 800 times number of suicides this year alone.”He said, “Ask Tim DeWeese, he’s got the numbers.”So, KMBC took his statements and O’Hara’s statements to DeWeese, who is the director for Johnson County Mental Health. “There has absolutely not been an increase in youth suicides at all,” DeWeese told KMBC on Friday. “Not 800%, not 0%.”DeWeese said the county saw five teen suicides in 2021, which is the same as in 2020. That was a 30% drop from 2019’s numbers. All the teen suicides in 2021 were teenage boys, and in 2020 four of the victims were boys and one was a girl. DeWeese said, statistically speaking, most of the suicides in Johnson County are middle-aged white men.”I am very concerned that we are putting our children in grave danger by not having our schools just be normal,” O’Hara told the BOCC on Thursday.”I don’t know if I really want to go back to normal,” DeWeese said. “Because I don’t know that the normal that we were living in prior to the pandemic is normal that I think is in the best interest of our community. I think what we should be focused on is rewriting what the new normal will look like; helping kids achieve their highest level of academic performance, keeping them safe, and removing the risk factors that we know are there.”Before the pandemic, Johnson County saw higher suicide rates, peaking with nearly 20 teen suicides a few years ago. DeWeese credits that drop to the work done to make mental health a priority, by the school districts.DeWeese said that there are several factors that contribute to poor mental health among teens. He puts social media at the top of that list. He said, “We need to address the risk factors of unchecked technology of social media,” closely followed by easy availability of alcohol (and the permissiveness of underage drinking) and use of illegal substances.

When the subject of masks in schools comes up, invariably so does the topic of mental health.

“We’re seeing mental health issues, we’re seeing behavioral issues,” said Johnson County Commissioner Charlotte O’Hara at Thursday’s Board of County Commissioners meeting.

O’Hara cited children’s mental health as one reason she didn’t want to require masks in schools.

She used her time at the meeting to ask Johnson County’s health director, “are you aware that the suicide rate among adolescent girls from 12-17 has risen by 51% since 2019?”

But that’s false. One: the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that is suicide attempts, not actual suicides, which is an important difference. And two: that’s a national statistic.

During the public comment session, a man stood up and announced, “Mental health matters. There may not be any deaths from COVID, but there’s an 800%, 800 times number of suicides this year alone.”

He said, “Ask Tim DeWeese, he’s got the numbers.”

So, KMBC took his statements and O’Hara’s statements to DeWeese, who is the director for Johnson County Mental Health.

“There has absolutely not been an increase in youth suicides at all,” DeWeese told KMBC on Friday. “Not 800%, not 0%.”

DeWeese said the county saw five teen suicides in 2021, which is the same as in 2020. That was a 30% drop from 2019’s numbers. All the teen suicides in 2021 were teenage boys, and in 2020 four of the victims were boys and one was a girl. DeWeese said, statistically speaking, most of the suicides in Johnson County are middle-aged white men.

“I am very concerned that we are putting our children in grave danger by not having our schools just be normal,” O’Hara told the BOCC on Thursday.

“I don’t know if I really want to go back to normal,” DeWeese said. “Because I don’t know that the normal that we were living in prior to the pandemic is normal that I think is in the best interest of our community. I think what we should be focused on is rewriting what the new normal will look like; helping kids achieve their highest level of academic performance, keeping them safe, and removing the risk factors that we know are there.”

Before the pandemic, Johnson County saw higher suicide rates, peaking with nearly 20 teen suicides a few years ago. DeWeese credits that drop to the work done to make mental health a priority, by the school districts.

DeWeese said that there are several factors that contribute to poor mental health among teens. He puts social media at the top of that list.

He said, “We need to address the risk factors of unchecked technology of social media,” closely followed by easy availability of alcohol (and the permissiveness of underage drinking) and use of illegal substances.

https://www.kmbc.com/article/johnson-county-kansas-covid-19-masks-student-mental-health/38699890

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