City, student groups look to ease mental health issues

Reopening Schools

NEW YORK CITY — The New York City Department of Education is concerned about a rash of recent suicides among students.

There have been five student suicides during the 2020-21 school year so far, according to the Department of Education. In the entire 2019-20 school year, there were four student suicides.

At a recent town hall meeting, Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza called it “alarming.”

Mayor Bill de Blasio echoed those concerns.

“We have seen several suicides in recent weeks of public school kids that is very, very painful,” he said.

Deepening student isolation and the mundane routine of remote learning are contributing factors to the mental anguish children are dealing with, compacted by the loss of loved ones from coronavirus.

“I think I speak for all teenagers when I say that we are slowly, just like spiraling into… just sadness every day and frustration and feeling like there’s nothing to do,” said School for Classics junior Kylie-Nilah Richardson.

A student group is trying to help kids cope.

Katrena Perou founded Inspiring Minds in 2018 to help under-served high schools. With many schools on break this week, outreach is especially important.

“Many of them were dealing with isolation, anxiety, some levels of depression and just by being a part of our space, you know, we were able to be a safe space for them, a place for them to be able to talk about how they were feeling,” Perou said.

Mayor de Blasio said it was imperative for kids to be back in classrooms, with every school now offering mental health services. However, there’s no timetable to reopen high schools.

For Richardson, she’s just taking it one step at a time and looking for a silver lining.

“The ending of my senior year, maybe I’ll actually be able to have a graduation and have a prom. So I’m kind of looking forward to that, but honestly at this point, all these different vaccines, all these different variants, I don’t even know anymore.”

If a parent is concerned about their child’s mental health, they can speak to the social worker or guidance counselor at the school, connect with NYC Well at 1-888-NYC-WELL.

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