Mental health is silent killer

Published 4:50 pm Tuesday, November 23, 2021

Usually athletes are hailed for their prowess during competition. However, this past summer U.S. Olympic gymnast Simone Biles and tennis star Naomi Osaka captured the spotlight not for their performances, but rather for admitting their struggles with mental health. And they aren’t alone.

According to data from the World Health Organization (WHO), close to one billion people globally have a mental disorder — including one in seven 10- to 19-year-olds. The holiday season — a time of joy for most of us — can be brutal for those suffering from depression.

The COVID-19 pandemic has also added fuel to the fire and exacerbated the problem. Educators report that students are experiencing more anxiety, depression and suicidal thoughts and that schools need more resources to help them.

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Anxiety and depression has doubled in children and adolescents since the start of the pandemic, a survey of more than 80,000 students published in JAMA Pediatrics found. Recent unrest at Smithfield High School is further evidence that young people are on edge, increasingly likely to inflict harm on themselves and on one another.

In the 25-and-under population, deaths by suicide rose 11% and hospitalizations for self-harm were up 8% in 2020.

If you or someone you know may be considering suicide, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

It’s time to stop sweeping mental health issues under the rug. Mental health is just as important as physical health. More mental health professionals are needed in Virginia schools, more teachers with first-aid mental health training and more programs to deter teen suicide.

We urge legislators to remember the mental health needs of children when it comes to crucial funding decisions. Money spent on mental health resources for students is an investment in Virginia’s future.