COVID mitigation and damage to young people

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06 Apr 2022, 9:47 am

The Teen Girls Aren’t Going to Forget - Suzi Weiss for Bari Weiss’s substack

Quote:
Lily May Holland, 16, remembers the long, lonely days during lockdown when her parents, both doctors, were at work. She’d watch “Gilmore Girls” and “Gossip Girl” and “Grey’s Anatomy” over and over. She stopped eating and started doing Chloe Ting workouts. “I’d have gum and a smoothie all day,” she said. They lived in the sticks north of Charlottesville, Virginia, on a dirt road between farms and trailer parks and the occasional Baptist church, and she didn't have a license, so she couldn’t go anywhere or meet any friends. Teachers would post assignments online, but it was like—who cared? Everything happened in isolation, like they were atoms. “I would’ve gone to parties, and me and my friends were planning to go to concerts, and homecoming,” Lily said. “I had crushes freshman year. But all that fell away.”

Teenagers need a social life. Every single study and report and piece of data tells us so. But we don’t need studies to tell us what we all already know. Ask yourself: What would it have been like if you had spent your thirteenth year in solitude?

It was more than a year, actually. Millions of American kids had gone a year-and-a-half mostly alone. And every single girl I spoke to said the same thing about the experience: They felt like they were sinking, or being swallowed up.

So it almost seemed like an understatement when, in December 2021, the Surgeon General, Dr. Vivek Murthy, said the effect of the lockdowns had been “devastating” for young people’s mental health.

“Usually, kids would be learning to disobey their parents and stay out late and figure out the consequences, but there was just none of that,” said Regine Galanti, a clinical psychologist in New York who specializes in adolescents with anxiety disorders. The impact of all that emptiness—the zig-zagging from one hazy, blue-ish screen to another and then to another—was starting to come into focus, and it was scary. Lily said that, at some point mid-lockdown, she got sick of communicating with other human beings via iPhone. So then she stopped communicating at all. Galanti said, “It’s almost like a volcano that we set ourselves up for.”

It was an unprecedented volcano. In the past, Earth-shaking events—the Great Depression, World War II, Vietnam—had forced kids to grow up. Teenagers got jobs or were deployed overseas, and when they came back they settled down and had kids or left home and fled to the big city. The point is that they started their lives.

Covid did the opposite. Instead of nudging young people out the door, it anchored them to their parents, to their bedrooms and to their screens. And now that the madness is finally ebbing, they’re unsure how to proceed. Galanti said, “it’s like a sci-fi show where people went to sleep and woke up two years later, and the world has moved on but they haven’t.”

Holland said that, when school started up again in person, “I didn’t feel like I belonged. I felt like I should still be a freshman.”

Recently, I spoke with Serena. She’d spent the previous few days in bed watching “Euphoria” and “Shameless.” The week before, she’d tested positive for Covid for the second time. “Monday I had a brutal headache for about four hours,” Serena told me. Her mom left sandwiches, ibuprofen, and vitamins at the bottom of the stairs. “I didn’t have any energy to do my hair or make TikToks or anything.”

We were chatting on the phone as she drove back from a solo trip to the beach—her first excursion out in four days. “I just sat in my car for a while, then I got Panera,” she said.

Before the pandemic, Volk was a cheerleader. She’d been cheering since second grade, but she quit at the end of her sophomore year, when the cheering team stopped traveling to compete because of Covid.

All of their freedom and autonomy went away with the lockdowns,” said Lily’s mom, Dr. Eliza Holland, a pediatrician who sees teenage girls suffering from suicidal ideation, eating disorders, and drug overdoses. “I recently had a patient who was sent up from the Emergency Department who kept telling me, ‘I will kill myself if you send me back to my family.’”

It’s hard to know how seriously to take that kind of threat. Eliza Holland pointed out that the share-it-all, hyper-vulnerable format of the internet has different mores than real life. “When you say something like that online, you get a lot of positive reinforcement and you never have to look anyone in the eye. Even if you’re joking, it lands very differently in person.”

Holland spends a few weeks each summer as a volunteer physician at Lily’s sleepover camp in North Carolina. The past two summers, more girls have been homesick than usual. For the older teens, she’s had to send a few home who expressed desires to hurt or kill themselves.

This didn’t start with Covid. “People are growing up more slowly,” said Jean Twenge, a psychologist at San Diego State University and the author of the 2017 book “iGen.” Jonathan Haidt, the psychologist and author of “The Coddling of the American Mind,” traces the downward spiral to 2013 and the explosion of social media. That’s when the helicopter-parented 18-year-olds started to leave home with their iPhones and not much else.

But Covid has dramatically compounded these forces. Being hermetically sealed off from bad dates, bad breakups, awkward conversations, tough teachers and mean bosses has left young people even less capable of navigating the hiccups of daily life.

The CDC said that, from 2019 to 2020, the incidence of girls ages 12 to 17 who were rushed to the Emergency Room after attempting suicide jumped by 51 percent. E.R. admissions for eating disorders doubled among the same group, according to the CDC, and tripled for tic-related disorders, which experts trace in part to TikTok. (During roughly the same period, the overall U.S. suicide rate, which skews heavily male, dropped by about 3 percent.)

I got really into social media during lockdown,” Haley Shipley, a 14-year-old in Springfield, Missouri, told me. “I changed how I did my makeup. I’d stop eating.”

Haley’s mom, a medical coder, and her mom’s boyfriend were always stressed about money. One time, her mom threw a chair across the room. Haley got headaches from staring at the Chromebook her district had sent to every student. She had to take on more chores, and she could barely hear the teacher on Zoom while her siblings were running around and screaming.

In September 2020, Haley started cutting her arms. “A lot of girls did,” she told me, saying that social media “gave a lot of us depression.”

When she was going to school online, Maisy t wouldn’t get out of bed all day.

One day, her math teacher took her aside to check in on her. “Technically, she just put me in a breakout room on Zoom,” Maisy said. That’s when the floodgates opened, and she couldn't stop crying. One of her friends drank a bottle of vodka alone in her room and had to get her stomach pumped. Another tried to overdose on her parents’ pills.

The quote in the article asking you what it would have been like to spend your 13th year in solitude was a rhetorical one. They expected us to say what a horror. For many of us our answer is paradise. Whether it would have been good for us in the long run is another question. The point of all this is to show NT or autistic that living in a world not built for you is really damaging mentally especially during your formative years. Being dismissive of this and expecting one to suck it all up does further damage. Learning how to suck some of it up is necessary in life but not all of it.

America made a decision that prioritized over children over adults. That was justifiable at the beginning when there was no vaccine and no knowledge. Within a few months we knew that children were at very low risk for severe disease. Yet in many areas we continued it for months on end to protect the teachers and grandparents. Even when the lockdown ended other mitigation measures continued that were not as damaging as full out lockdowns but not good for most. Europe for the most part made a different choice, while their lockdowns were stricter then ours for the most part their schools stayed open. During the 1918 flu pandemic schools stayed open(outdoor classes were questionable). The following flu pandemics of 1957 and 1968 same thing(Polio which did target children hit mostly during the summer months and beaches and parks did close and victims were quarantined).

Once the vaccines were available if mommy or daddy or grandma and grandpa got severe disease because they refused to get vaccinated that should have been on the adults not the kids.

Hopefully we learned our lesson but,
A major reason we locked down kids was because we were fighting the last war. Previous pandemics such as the flu had targeted young people. The next pandemic probably will target kids. We will most likely “let her rip” because overcorrection is an American trait.


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DSM 5: Autism Spectrum Disorder, DSM IV: Aspergers Moderate Severity

“My autism is not a superpower. It also isn’t some kind of god-forsaken, endless fountain of suffering inflicted on my family. It’s just part of who I am as a person”. - Sara Luterman