In a horrific incident, an 11-year-old boy, only a sixth-grader at Woodbridge Elementary School in San Joaquin County, California, died after shooting himself in the head during a Zoom class. Authorities were alerted of someone being shot and, when deputies arrived, they found the boy, identified as Adan Llanos, with severe head injuries. After being rushed to the hospital, Llanos died of his injuries.
The Details of the Tragedy
“Our thoughts are with the family and all those affected by this tragic event,” the sheriff’s office said.
Neighbors reported the sister, attending her own Zoom class in another room, discovering the horrid scene, running out of her home, and screaming for help. “The sister came here, banging on the door,” one neighbor said, which prompted him to call authorities. “That little boy was one the [sic] nicest little boys you’ll ever want to know. He was special. Easygoing. He was the type of person who would never hurt anybody. Soft-spoken with a beautiful smile.”
In a letter to families attending the Lodi Unified School District, Superintendent Cathy Nichols-Washer offered counseling and support services to students and staff. “Our thoughts are with the family affected by this terrible tragedy,” the letter read. “We also offer our condolences to the Woodbridge Elementary community.”
David Bain, Sacramento executive director for the National Alliance on Mental Illness, advised parents to remain vigilant over the mental health of their children following the incident. “Avoid saying things like, ‘You will get over it,’ or ‘toughen up.’ Be empathetic and understanding of how they feel. Tell them whatever is going on won’t change how you feel about them, that you still love them and care for them,” Bain encouraged.
Depression and Anxiety Spike Among Students
Unfortunately, this unspeakable tragedy is indicative of a terrifying decline in mental health specifically among students as the pandemic restricts social opportunities and triggers more generalized anxiety towards the virus. In a statement from Paul Warren, the Lodi Unified School District student support director, he expressed the school district has experienced a rise in “anxious and depressed students, as the students’ routines have been interrupted and they aren’t able to socialize amid the pandemic.”
On a national scale, A report released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in August found a quarter of 18- to 24-year-olds surveyed “seriously considered suicide” in the last 30 days. Another study from Student Experience in the Research University, which screened 30,725 undergraduate students at nine research universities from May to July, found that 35 percent of them were positive for major depressive disorder and 39 percent for generalized anxiety disorder. A study from four youth mental health advocacy and suicide prevention organizations released on Sept. 10 found that 58 percent of college students surveyed said they were “moderately,” “very” or “extremely” worried about their own mental health
“The workload has tremendously increased and at a school like (Franklin & Marshall College in Pennsylvania) where academic rigor is a major value, students feel extra pressure to perform in extremely unknown circumstances,” wrote Braden Renke, creator of a mental health advocacy group on campus and a former member of the Mental Health America collegiate mental health council. “Many students are at home in unstable environments, are struggling with financial hardships, and are struggling with the lack of a ‘normal’ routine.”
Limited social interactions with nagging anxiety towards potential exposure to the virus compounded with academic pressure have yielded an intense rise in mental health problems noted Asia Wong, student health services and counseling director at Loyola University New Orleans. Students may feel more isolated, some may be struggling with the loss of a relative due to covid-19. Bombarded by bad news from the mainstream media, students suffer from unnecessary despair regarding the virus.
Despite this upsurge, students continuously report dangerously limited mental health resources and increased difficulty accessing them. A survey by the Healthy Minds Network for Research on Adolescent and Young Adult Mental Health and the American College Health Association discovered of the 41.8 percent of students who attempted to seek mental health care during the pandemic, 23.3 percent said it had been “much more difficult” to access care, and 36.8 percent said it was “somewhat more difficult.”
With some students living off-campus or are at a greater risk of death from the coronavirus and requiring remote care, mental health services at universities have struggled to provide proper treatment.
Though the COVID-19 pandemic dominates the headlines, we cannot forget the second pandemic of mental health erupting across our nation, especially among students. As exhibited by the Llanos, the consequences could be deadly.
*** If you or someone you know needs help, you can call the national suicide prevention lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or you can chat online here. ***