STAY SAFE, STAY WELL!
Covid-19, Youth Suicide and Firearms – A Recipe for Disaster
It is a disturbing trend that cannot be ignored. Suicide rates among children are higher than they ever have been. The current pandemic has provoked previous child suicide rates to surge to tragic numbers. The stress of adjusting to our new way of living has impacted not only adults but also children. Given that many children already deal with stress, depression, and anxiety, the onset of Covid-19 has proven to take an even more enormous toll on those already suffering. According to the CDC, suicide is the 2nd leading cause of death for those aged 10-24. To make matters worse, our current pandemic has seen a massive surge in firearm sales due to society’s uncertainty. This uncertainty has manifested into a potential recipe for disaster and tragedy.
Our children have had to deal with a completely new and foreign way of learning. In addition to the classroom environment which is drastically different, the social aspect has all disappeared. Kids cannot see and play with friends like they used to. Isolation is the new normal. While not all, many are stuck indoors all day and living solitary and sedentary lives. Many children have first-hand experience losing a loved one to Covid-19 while also experiencing economic devastation. It is hard to be young and understand the concept of light at the end of the tunnel. With limited resources and an overwhelming feeling of hopelessness and despair, some children take their own lives to end the pain and suffering.
The Clark County School District (CCSD) is Protecting Our Student’s (POS) local school district. CCSD has seen an extraordinary rise in student suicides. An estimated 326,000 students are enrolled in the CCSD, making it the 5th largest district in the Nation. In the nine months that CCSD has switched to remote learning, there have been 19 student suicides, compared to nine the year before. These losses of lives have forced the district to speed up in-person learning. Plans are being rolled out to start resuming in-person learning for small groups starting March 1st.
Clark County School District has gone even far enough to invest in a suicide alert system called GoGuardian Beacon. GoGuardian helps to analyze a student’s online behavior to root out red flags representing suicide or self-harm. Since its inception in the CCSD, more than 3,100 alerts have been initiated between June and October. An internet search for “how to make a noose” triggered a GoGuardian alert that had school officials calling the student’s parent to alert him of the noose. When finally reached, the parent went into his son’s room and found a noose made from shoelaces around the child’s neck. We do not even want to think about the outcome had there not been the GoGuardian software in place.
A pandemic, an abundance of protests, an election year, as well as the potential of reduced funding for law enforcement drove up firearm sales dramatically in 2020. What’s interesting about this is that there has been a surge of first-time gun buyers. According to The National Instant Criminal Background Check System, there was a 60 percent increase in background checks in 2020 compared to 2019. The Firearm Industry Trade Association estimates that 40 percent of those sales were for first-time gun buyers. Unfortunately, some new and current gun owners do not understand the concept of being a responsible gun owner. There is an abundance of things a responsible gun owner needs to do when they bring a gun home even more critical if there are children in the house. The children dying from suicide via a gun are not going to the store and buying a gun. Our children take their own lives by gaining access to an adult’s gun in the house. Irresponsible gun owners contribute to the rise of suicide by a gun for children. As an adult, owning a firearm comes with great responsibility to oneself, everyone in the home, and those outside the home.
The End Result
As a society, human beings, parents, and gun owners, we need to work together to stop another child from taking their own life. We are failing right now. By no means is POS anti-gun; we are anti irresponsible gun owners. Our children are hurting, and it is up to us as adults and guardians to watch out for signs that could lead to an unnecessary loss of life. We need to make sure the communication lines are always open while the access to firearms from children is permanently closed.
Some of the signs that a teen or youth may be contemplating suicide are:
- Talking about suicide or death in detail and excess.
- Feelings of hopelessness.
- Talks of passive suicide ideation.
- Emotional pain, distress, anger.
- Significant changes in mood or behavior, such as becoming very irritable.
- Changes in habits such as eating and sleeping, both in terms of not enough or excess.
- Withdrawing or isolating from activities that once pleased them.
- Any form of loss.
If your child is in distress and you are concerned for their safety, call 911 or take them to the nearest emergency room.
If you or someone you know is having suicidal thoughts, reach out for help. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is open 24 hours a day at 800-273-8255.
If you need resources and information regarding how to handle and store a firearm safely, please visit: