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Game. Set. Match.

Updated: Jul 20, 2023

A couple of weeks ago, my daughter’s elementary school went on lockdown because there was a shooter in the neighborhood. Later that week, a local high school in a well-to-do neighborhood closed for on-campus classes for an entire day due to threats of violence, and another filed a police report for a hate crime. And then, last week, a student at a prestigious private high school here in town took his own life.


The prosperity of our children is the measure of our success as a society, and these events establish beyond any reasonable doubt that Covid has defeated us. Game. Set. Match.

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If you work in finance and don’t have children, you might have been fooled into thinking that the headlines about China Evergrande Group officially becoming a defaulter for the first time were the news of the week, but that would be wrong.


The latest chapter in the Evergrande drama is indeed likely to end in massive restructuring for the world’s most indebted developer. Fitch cut Evergrande to “restricted default” over its failure to make coupon payments last week, a move that may trigger cross-defaults on the developer’s $300 billion of dollar debt, yet that was not the story. The news of the week came from the Surgeon General.


The U.S. surgeon general, Dr. Vivek H. Murthy, issued Protecting Youth Mental Health last week, a 53-page report on a burgeoning mental-health crisis among American youth that has been wildly exacerbated by the pandemic. Emergency-room visits for depression, anxiety, and other conditions have been rising for a long time, but emergency-room visits caused by suicide attempts by adolescent girls jumped 51 percent in 2021, according to the report. It only took one paragraph from those 53 pages to eclipse anything happening at Evergrande or anywhere else:


“Since the pandemic began, rates of psychological distress among young people, including symptoms of anxiety, depression, and other mental health disorders, have increased. Recent research covering 80,000 youth globally found that depressive and anxiety symptoms doubled during the pandemic, with 25% of youth experiencing depressive symptoms and 20% experiencing anxiety symptoms. Negative emotions or behaviors such as impulsivity and irritability—associated with conditions such as ADHD— appear to have moderately increased. Early clinical data are also concerning: In early 2021, emergency department visits in the United States for suspected suicide attempts were 51% higher for adolescent girls and 4% higher for adolescent boys compared to the same time period in early 2019. Moreover, pandemic-related measures reduced in-person interactions among children, friends, social supports, and professionals such as teachers, school counselors, pediatricians, and child welfare workers. This made it harder to recognize signs of child abuse, mental health concerns, and other challenges.”


We’ve known for months that young children are less susceptible to serious infection and less likely to transmit the coronavirus, but we forsook their wellbeing anyway, and that was the news of the week. The situation in which we have thrust our children will haunt this economy for decades.

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Suicide attempts for adolescent girls were up how much? 51%? As the father of two, my clients are lucky I’m even coming into work after reading that. It sounds like I should haul my daughters off for full-time home school in the Galapagos; what am I even doing here?


The reality is that (while I humbly serve as a limited partner in my marriage) I’m the general partner in my relationship with my children. And news like this is a call to action for all such GP’s. I spend a great deal of time meeting with clients and talking about their family situations, and we all know what’s happening.


Last month, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, and the Children’s Hospital Association declared that the pandemic-related decline in child and adolescent mental health has become a national emergency.


The National Association of School Psychologists recommends one professional for every 500 students. Maine is the only state that meets that standard; nationally, we’re at one for every 1,211.


According to a paper recently released by the National Bureau of Economic Research, math scores on standardized tests dropped 14% during the 2020-2021 academic year. Moreover, students attending all-remote schools suffered a greater decline than those who took classes in person. “Bottom line: losses are big—and much bigger with less in-person school,” wrote the study co-author Emily Oster on Twitter.


None of this should shock anyone. It was known before the pandemic that remote schooling produced terrible results. Margaret E. Raymond, Ph.D of Stanford University’s Center for Research on Education Outcomes (CREDO) found more than five years ago that remote classes were so ineffective that when it came to math, it was as though children “did not go to school for the entire year.”


We manage portfolios based on long-term trends, and we think these data represent a formidable headwind for markets. People can’t go back to work if they can’t depend on schools. Period.

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Resources for Families:

Children’s Mental Health and COVID-19 Parental Resources Kit (CDC): Resources for supporting children’s social, emotional, and mental health


HealthyChildren.org (American Academy of Pediatrics): Parenting tips and other resources


What’s On Your Mind? (UNICEF): Guide for talking to children about mental health

Family Resource Center (Child Mind Institute): Family resources on child mental health, including Media Guidelines for Kids of All Ages


NetSmartz (National Center for Missing and Exploited Children): Online platform to teach children online safety in age-appropriate ways

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