OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – Not only is COVID-19 leaving impacts on physical health, but there’s also concern about the virus’ effect on children’s mental wellbeing.  

“I think that it’s scary. Parents do need to be concerned. We don’t need to panic,” said Dr. Willis Holloway. “We just need to be more thoughtful and realize that these things occur when you have a disease like COVID-19.”

Dr. Willis Holloway, a psychiatrist with 32 years of experience, told KFOR how COVID has a harsh impact on children. 

Holloway said St. Anthony Hospital, where he works at two inpatient units, had seen a lot of children for suicide attempts in recent months.

“If you’re asking me if we’ve seen an uptick in suicidality, I would say for sure there is an uptick in kids coming into the hospital for that complaint,” said Dr. Holloway. 

Holloway told KFOR there are not enough studies to show the number of suicidal children impacted by the pandemic, but he believes from what he has seen that kids are having a hard time adjusting to the demand the virus is forcing on them.

“If you interview children, you’ll find that a fair number of them think about suicide at some time during their lives, but they don’t always do act on it,” said Dr. Holloway

However, Holloway stated that the threshold for acting on it seems to be lowered.

“You know, in the presence of a disease like COVID 19,” said Dr. Holloway. “So I do think for that reason, there is a great risk for an uptick and certainly we need to be vigilant in monitoring our children.”

According to the CDC, teen emergency room visits for suicide attempts increased significantly during the pandemic, with a 50% rise in cases in females and an almost 4% increase in males.

Dr. Holloway warns parents to be on the lookout if their child is acting unusual or causing trouble at school. These could be signs the student isn’t handling the pandemic well.

“If you have a population that already is really struggling and then again, you superimpose something like this disease on top of it, you have to be even more concerned about your kids and what the impact is going to be, including the result of possible suicide attempts,” said Dr. Holloway.

If you or someone you know is in need of help; call 1-800-SUICIDE (1-800-784-2433) or 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255).