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As the Pandemic Wanes, Our Youth Cry Out for Help
Suicide, Social Media Addiction, Mental Health Issues Result of Covid Isolation and Stress
By Nick Jacobs


As we as a society examine the negative impact of the past 15-plus months, one group that needs specific attention are our young people.

A recent article in Becker’s Hospital Review helped sound the alarm as hospitals are inundated with kids attempting suicide. As stated by Jena Hausmann, CEO of Children’s Hospital Aurora, Colorado, her pediatric emergency and inpatient units are being “overrun with kids attempting suicide and suffering from other forms of major mental health illness.”

If that’s not a societal and cultural statement, nothing ever will be. The article went on to explain there has been an increase of 90 percent in the demand for behavioral health treatment.

The combination of isolation and stress from the COVID pandemic has contributed to this phenomenon and turned what would have been lowlevel anxiety and depression into suicide attempts. The chief medical officer of this Aurora-based Children’s Hospital went on to explain that the top reason for emergency room visits over the past several weeks has been suicide attempts. He went on to explain, “The kids have run out of resilience – their tanks are empty.”

One of my long-time physician friends, Dr. Scott Shannon, a pediatric psychiatrist from Colorado, says, “We need to take action. Physical inactivity, deteriorating diet, lack of adequate sleep, and fraying of family relationships are similar threats pounding our kids. This has been a long train coming.

“We tend to ignore the issues of children and women in our culture and this is an example of that and what denial and avoidance brings when a synergistic crisis arrives to stress an unprepared, poorly funded and non-functional system.”

Nor is this challenge limited to Colorado.

Not long after my contact with Dr. Shannon, another close friend and pediatrician, Dr Matt Masiello, called me from Massachusetts where he said the challenges are similarly alarming. He indicated that young patients are sometimes kept in holding situations for days at a time before they can find psychiatric beds.

I then spoke with a local administrator from Southwestern PA and was informed they are seeing a situation that is also approaching the emergency level with the primary challenge of finding appropriate facilities and professionals to help these kids.

We have all become critically aware of the challenges this pandemic has created when it comes to the lack of socialization, required home schooling, and the loss of significant activities such as dances, sporting events, and recognition and celebratory ceremonies. Besides that, if you’re a teenager challenged by living with parents who are insensitive, abusive, or just stressed from attempting to deal with the pressures of working all day from home, the level of isolation experienced can be overwhelming.

Beyond these first, most obvious, causes feeding this wildfire of psychiatric challenges among our young people, can we point a finger at anything else? Maybe we should look at the addictive nature of social media as another potential contributor.

To quote a friend and Ph.D. Psychologist Gregory Rys, “Media is now deliberately designed to be addictive. Especially since we have entered the age of instant feedback via phone, table, PC, internet, and cable TV. “Marketers are deliberately using principles of neuroeconomics and learning theory to economic decision making and consumerism at a macro and micro level. Social media platforms know how to effectively utilize these principles for advertising.

“Once you have someone addicted to a device and platform you can shape their emotional state and influence their behavior. . . There is a newly emerging disorder that psychologists are treating. It is called Social Media Addiction, and just like other addictions, you can use the addiction to weaponize its users. And it occurs on a daily basis: to suppress facts or to invent them. And the addicts will believe what they are told as long as the drug keeps being delivered.

“The ironic thing is, most of us don’t believe these principles apply to us, just other more gullible people. That is exactly where the architects of social media drugs want us.”

Of course, you don’t have to be a physician, a scientist, or a behavioral health professional to realize we are in a time of significant turmoil where the primary societal infrastructure has been significantly disrupted, and it is time for serious change. Otherwise, we risk losing a whole generation to the residue impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.

If that happens, we effectively can say goodbye to any chance we have of ever returning to “normal” – whatever that is.

Nick Jacobs is a partner with SMR, LLC, a senior leadership healthcare consulting firm. He is a founder of the Academy of Integrative Health and Medicine, former board member of the American Board of Integrative Holistic Medicine. A former hospital CEO and founder of two genetic research institutes, Jacobs maintains a website, Healinghospitals.com.



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