Jilani: Lack of social support from in-person classes damaging students' mental health

Journalist Zaid Jilani addressed reports that teen suicides and suicidal ideation are up amid the social isolation of school closures, saying inequalities in school systems likely exacerbate mental health issues.

“I think a lot of the K-12 education system just isn’t set up for this," Jilani said in a Monday Hill.TV interview. “I think lots of students don’t have access to proper facilities to even take part in it.”

These inequalities, he said, contribute to “a really difficult situation for a lot of students, particularly students who don’t have good internet access or students who just don’t have a good home life,” with in-person schooling pre-pandemic frequently serving as a de facto “social support facility” for students from troubled or low-income backgrounds.

The issue also became politically charged last summer after then-President TrumpDonald TrumpUkraine's president compares UN to 'a retired superhero' Collins to endorse LePage in Maine governor comeback bid Heller won't say if Biden won election MORE called for schools to fully reopen, Jilani said.

“By inserting himself into it, he sort of polarized the debate where it became the quote-unquote conservative position to reopen schools,” he said. “But also there’s another sort of dynamic here where in parts of the country that had strong teachers’ unions, the teachers’ unions generally argued for keeping them closed and doing remote learning.”

“Unfortunately, I do think that the issue became ultimately partisan, and that’s what led to things like Las Vegas not realizing they had seen a doubling of youth suicides in this period, because they didn’t have the normal capacity to use schools as a social support for students,” he said.