Suicidal Tendencies Among School Pupils Up 42% This School Year

Educational advisers reported having receiving tens of thousands of new requests for treatment by students seeking support for loneliness, distress, anxiety and sexual abuse

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A school in the Tel Aviv suburb of Givatayim, during a coronavirus lockdown, January 2021.
A school in the Tel Aviv suburb of Givatayim, during a coronavirus lockdown, January 2021.Credit: Moti Milrod

The treatment of school children for suicidal tendencies has jumped by more than 40 percent this school year, a new report by Israel's National Council for the Child shows.

According to the figures, which were provided by the Education Ministry Psychological and Counseling Services Division, 340 students underwent or were undergoing treatment due to a fear of suicidal tendencies between September and December 2020, compared to 240 students during the same period in 2019.

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During the first lockdown, between March and May 2020, educational advisers reported there had been tens of thousands of new requests for treatment by students, in addition to existing cases. There were 28,000 applications from students suffering from loneliness and sadness, 21,000 related to students’ distress and anxiety, and 21,000 due to problems in the family. About one percent of the requests received during that period (a total of 1,477) were related to suicidal thoughts.

After the return to school in May, advisers reported that students were experiencing further problems: frequent absences; restlessness; difficulty to enter the classroom; difficulties with emotional and behavioral control; as well as social issues.

The National Council for the Child report also indicates that the number of minors attending regional centers for the treatment of sexual abuse of children and adolescents increased by about 24 percent in 2020 compared to the previous year. The number of children referred for treatment in the centers because they sexually abused others, or because they were diagnosed as suffering from age-inappropriate sexual behavior, almost doubled, increasing from 275 to 518. The number of children referred for treatment because they were sexually abused increased by 15 percent, from 2,010 to 2,324.

Parents and children demonstrate against remote learning, Jerusalem, November 2020.Credit: Ohad Zwigenberg

In addition, according to the report, during the first six months of the coronavirus epidemic (March to September), the number of calls to the Child Online Protection Bureau's hotline - number 105 in Israel -which is designed to protect children and adolescents surfing the web, increased by 63 percent compared to the same period in the previous year. The reports that were received referred to phenomena such as suicide threats, bullying, internet sex crimes and hacking.

About a third of the reports to the hotline were received from the parents of children who were harmed, with the rest coming from the victims themselves, relatives or educators. Of the reported cyberspace offenses, 30 percent took place on Instagram and about 24 percent on WhatsApp.

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