14-year-old Pepijn digested the lockdown poorly, his father says. “The corona measures were so drastic for him that he started doing wrong things. Every young person expresses his dissatisfaction in his own way.”
Measures too large
Pepijn was found in a tent in Amsterdam-North during the lockdown period. To be clear: he did not commit suicide, but turned to drugs. Drugs were found in his blood. His parents think that he wanted to experience a blissful feeling again, that he wanted to take a trip.
“The impact of the crisis and the measures were great for this curious, high-spirited boy. It is terrible what we have done to our young people.”
Today, the RIVM, Nivel and the GGDs are presenting a major study on the long-term consequences of corona. For the study, more than 5000 young people were given a questionnaire and data from general practitioners was used. The study covers the period December 2021 to February 2022. During that period there was a lockdown.
More than 1 in 5 young people seriously thought about ending their life during these months. The percentage actually committed to the act was not measured in this study. According to the CBS, 237 young people (between 20 and 30 years old) committed suicide last year.
According to the researchers, GPs also saw a lot more suicidal thoughts and attempts in young people. “37 percent more compared to the period before corona,” says researcher Michel Dückers. He is professor by special appointment of crisis, safety and health at the University of Groningen.
Worrying figures, Dückers calls them. “During the last lockdown, the cake has really run out for many young people,” says the professor. The research also shows that many young people suffered from psychological complaints (43 percent). Loneliness and physical complaints were also common.
What explains the high number of young people who have had suicidal thoughts? Dückers: “I think mainly a lack of perspective. The young people no longer had any prospects for a future. All their plans were in jeopardy.”
Pepijn’s father saw that in his son too. “Young people were put on their plate during that corona time that were very radical. They really just had to adapt to the rules that were imposed on them.” The boy had been walking with his ‘soul under his arm’ for a while. He found life boring, not exciting, there was no more challenge.
Stay in contact
According to the researchers, it is important to keep in touch with young people. For example, there are various helplines where young people with psychological problems can go. The websites of Youth Help Online and Brainwiki, among others, provide a good overview of all options. There is also the National Agenda for Suicide Prevention.
Pepijn’s father agrees. “My biggest advice is: keep communicating, no matter how difficult,” he emphasizes. And: “As a parent, don’t start doubting yourself. Keep realizing that you are a good educator.”
The father of the deceased teenager also makes an appeal to politics. In case corona rears its head again and measures may be necessary again: “For God’s sake, let’s think carefully what we are doing to each other and our children with drastic measures to eradicate a virus, which they themselves hardly suffer from, and never again. leave.”
Today there is a debate on suicide prevention in the House of Representatives. State Secretary Maarten van Ooijen (Public Health, Welfare and Sport) says in a response that he finds the figures ‘worrying’. “I think it’s good that young people can now physically go to school and meet friends again. I expect this to contribute to better mental well-being.”
The State Secretary emphasizes that it is important that young people with suicidal thoughts and their loved ones can reach the 113 helpline. “That number must be reachable day and night.”