The kids aren’t all right.

A report on adolescent mental health from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention last week didn’t merely raise a red flag. Rather, it was more akin to a flare accompanied by a blaring alarm.

A few numbers: More than four in 10 teens reported that they feel “persistently sad or hopeless,” with one in five saying that they have contemplated suicide.

News accounts of the CDC report routinely pointed to the coronavirus pandemic as the proximate cause, but this is facile in the extreme. As we’ve noted previously, many of the problems that the citizenry have experienced over the past two years are due to responses to the pandemic – stay-at-home orders and lockdowns and business closures and school shutdowns – rather than to the virus itself. It wasn’t the virus that kept kids from learning; it was the fact that many were not even in school at all. The virus gets blamed for what was an ill-considered, one-size-fits-all response. And, now, the virus is being said to have increased the mental health difficulties of teenagers across the land.

It wasn’t the virus that sent kids reeling, but the irrational reaction to it. As soon as it became known that kids were pretty much safe from the worst effects of COVID-19 – and that was known fairly early on – every effort should have been made to get the public schools open and to keep them open. But no. The heads of the large teachers unions acted as though it was their job to keep the schools closed and keep teachers at home. And this not only kept kids from learning, but also damaged their mental health. Nice job, union bosses.

Youngsters who reported that they had maintained connections with others at school also reported that they were better off mentally. Well, duh, as the kids used to say. One needn’t have a Ph.D. in psychology to see that this only makes sense.

People are social creatures. Keeping them isolated and separated – “socially distant,” to use the frequently employed euphemism – did so much harm that it’s impossible to quantify.

People need to learn from this. Schools are essential. Next time someone – union chief or otherwise – talks about closing the schools, that wrongheaded notion must be waved away without a moment’s hesitation.

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