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Youth Suicide is Growing Concern for Tulare County Educators, Health Leaders

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While school districts face challenges to reopen for all grade levels, parents and other groups fear the effects of COVID-19 on youth could have a lasting impact, such as learning loss, depression and death by suicide.

These concerns made national headlines after 19 students took their lives in the Las Vegas area after COVID-19 closed schools. Officials, though, say it can be difficult to ascertain why some die by suicide.

The youth who lost so much and those who may be thinking about taking their lives worry Tulare County education and health officials. They have been collaborating with each other and sending free social workers to schools to help students since before the pandemic began.

“Because kids are not on campus, and I think as a result of distance learning, the assumption is there’s not as many eyes on kiddos and adolescents,” Bolin said, “so our crisis teams are getting called when youth risk is very severe,” said Natalie Bolin, deputy director of clinical services at Tulare County Health and Human Services Agency.

“We have seen an increase in the number of students needing grief support as a result of both COVID and non-COVID-related losses,” said Jennifer Newell, director of Behavioral Health Services at Tulare County Office of Education.

“Many students are struggling with the loss of personal connections due to distance learning,” she added.

“We have experienced some (death by suicide) attempts and suicidal tendencies,” said Tammy Aldaco, assistant superintendent of student services at Tulare Joint Union High School District.

“We have had an increase in social-emotional situations with our students, and it’s been very difficult to support students due to students not being on campus and being able to see them every day.”

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