Covid-19 school closings linked to increase in depression and suicide, study finds

An empty classroom in a junior high school on April 17, 2020 in Jingxian County, Anhui Province of China.

(CNN)Primary school students in China experienced more depressive symptoms and made more suicide attempts after schools closed for the pandemic, a new study found.

When Covid-19 hit China in January, the Ministry of Education postponed the start of spring semester to late April. That closure separated children from their friends and their broader community network, and seems to have had an impact on their mental well-being.
The study, published Friday in JAMA Network Open, compared reports of mental health problems in November -- before the pandemic started -- to mid-May, two weeks into the new spring semester when schools had re-opened.
    Researchers from Anhui Medical University got results back from surveys for 1,241 students who were in grades 4 through 8, and in junior high. The kids lived in Chizhou, Anhui Province, an area that did not have a large number of Covid-19 cases.
      Nearly 25% of the students reported depressive symptoms in May, when only about 19% did in November. Suicide attempts more than doubled -- at 6.4% in May compared to the 3% who made suicide attempts in November. There were no similar increases seen in reports of children who reported feeling an increase anxiety.
      Researchers hope school leaders will use this research to prepare the necessary mental health services to help children as they return to school following the lockdowns.
      This study is consistent with others that have found that enforced social isolation can cause mental health challenges for children.

        Benefits of in-person school outweigh virus risks

        As states grappled with how to safely reopen schools earlier this year, the American Academy of Pediatrics led a push for students to be physically present in classrooms rather than continue in remote learning for the sake of their well-being.
        The group, which represents and guides pediatricians across the country, updated its back-to-school recommendations in June to say evidence shows the academic, mental and physical benefits of in-person learning outweigh the risks from the coronavirus.