May 2, 2022
A new report published in JAMA found that the COVID-19 pandemic has only worsened an already existing mental health crisis among youth in the U.S. The issue is particularly relevant in New Jersey, which was one of only five states included in the study that witnessed a rise in adolescent suicide during the pandemic.
Ramon Solkhah, MD, Chair of Psychiatry and Behavioral Health at Hackensack Meridian School of Medicine at Seton Hall, was quoted on nj.comsaying, "Sadly, I'm not surprised . . . I think that most children's mental health professionals here in New Jersey have been well aware there was a crisis before COVID, and COVID has only worsened it and magnified it."
Researchers in this study reviewed health department data from 14 states from 2015 to 2020, analyzing more than 85,000 deaths by suicide by adolescents ages 10 to 19. The other four states alongside New Jersey in this study that saw spikes in adolescent suicide rates are Georgia, Indiana, Oklahoma, and Virginia.
This study confirms the findings of a report released last month by NJ Advance Media, which presented an in-depth look at the toll the mental health crisis is taking on youth in New Jersey. The report detailed that even though New Jersey has a relatively low suicide rate among adolescents and young adults, compared to other states in the nation, New Jersey's youth suicide rate rose at a rapid pace from 2016 to 2018 -nearly 40%, when compared to a decade earlier.
Another major issue is that suicide statistics are likely underreported, because in many cases, suicides are filed under other causes of death. Dr. Solkhah was again quoted, saying that this underreporting is due to the fact that "medical examiners, physicians all [are] hesitant to actually put the word suicide on a death certificate."
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