60% of child suicides in Milwaukee County tied to 'virtual learning'

Posted at 10:19 PM, Aug 31, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-31 23:19:40-04

MILWAUKEE — Alarming new statistics about the impact of online learning and isolation show that COVID-19 has taken a dangerous toll on the mental health of children.

"It's created a lot more anxiety than I've ever seen before," said Dr. Ashley Schoof, clinical director of Christian Family Solutions.

A recent tweet from the Milwaukee County Medical Examiner stated: "Since March of 2020, 60% percent of child suicides cited virtual learning as stressors in their life. Ages were 12 to 17."

"The online learning really put kids in a bubble," said Dr. Schoof.

Dr. Schoof says the pandemic was hard on kids socially as well as academically as they transitioned to online learning.

"When we see students and their academics decline, they get very low self-esteem, they don't believe they are worth anything. Those things are incredibly linked to an increase in suicide or presentation or even ideation," said Dr. Schoof.

Local pastor Kurt Ebert understands the pressure kids and teens are facing today now more than ever before, after his 16-year-old son Nathan took his own life back in 2008.

"I look at high schoolers so differently now, I have to say I'm far more sympathetic. I would have no better advice for parents than to open up as much dialogue as possible with their sons and daughters," said Ebert.

According to a study done in 2020, kids between the ages of 12 and 17 have reported the highest anxiety, depression, and suicidal ideation of any age group.

"I've known a handful of people over the last year that have died by suicide. Partially because the pandemic was so isolating," said Kelsey Varnell, a former patient with Christian Family Solutions.

That's why health officials say it's critical for parents to talk to their children, and get them the help they need - to know that they're not alone.

"You will make it through these high school years, you'll even make it through this COVID thing, and this world is going to be a much better place for having you in it," said Ebert.

Report a typo or error // Submit a news tip

Coronavirus in Wisconsin

More data on Wisconsin's vaccination progress here.

Find a vaccination site here.

Check out county-by-county coronavirus case numbers here.

More information: COVID-19 on the Wisconsin DHS website

Latest news and headlines here.