According to new federal data released last Monday, teen girls reported record levels of violence, sadness, and suicidal ideation in 2021, experiencing distress at twice the rate of teen boys.
The nearly three-in-five teen girls who felt persistently sad or hopeless in 2021 represented a 60% increase from a decade earlier.
The new survey is the most recent to document the growing mental health crisis among youths in the United States, which began before the pandemic and was exacerbated by the subsequent disruptions. The country's underfunded mental health infrastructure has struggled to keep up.
“These data show a distressing picture: Our teen girls are drowning in an atmosphere of sadness and trauma,” says WCWCW psychiatrist, Dr. Aeva Gaymon-Doomes.
“This information is hard to hear and should result in action,” Doomes added.
The survey, which was conducted in the fall of 2021, is the first to take into account the pandemic's impact. Every other year, the survey asks teens about their mental health and well-being, sexual behaviors, substance use, and other issues. The 2021 survey was also the first to inquire about social determinants of health such as housing stability and protective factors such as parental involvement and feeling close to people at school.
The survey discovered that while teens in general reported increasing mental health issues, violent experiences, and suicidal thoughts, certain groups face higher rates of distress and harm. Teen girls, for example, "perform worse than male students" on nearly every measure included in the survey, according to the authors.
Almost one in every five female students reported sexual violence, a 20% increase since 2017. Approximately 30% had seriously considered suicide, a nearly 60% increase from 2011.
LGBQ+ teenagers also had higher rates of mental health problems and violence. In the previous year, nearly 70% of LGBQ+ students reported feeling persistently sad or hopeless. More than 1 in 5 had attempted suicide in the past year.
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Tips for Parents of Struggling Teens
Are you concerned for your teen? If you worry that your teen might be experiencing depression or suicidal thoughts, there are a few things you can do to help:
Look for changes. Notice shifts in sleeping and eating habits in your teen, as well as any issues he or she might be having at school, such as slipping grades. Watch for angry outbursts, mood swings and a loss of interest in activities they used to love. Stay attuned to their social media posts as well.
Keep the lines of communication open. If you notice something unusual, start a conversation. But your child might not want to talk. In that case, offer him or her help in finding a trusted person to share their struggles with instead.
Seek out professional support. A child who expresses suicidal thoughts may benefit from a mental health evaluation and treatment. You can start by speaking with your child’s pediatrician or reach out to WCWCW or another trusted mental health professional.
In an emergency: If you have immediate concern for your child’s safety, do not leave him or her alone. Call a suicide prevention lifeline. Lock up any potentially lethal objects. Children who are actively trying to harm themselves should be taken to the closest emergency room.
Resources If you’re worried about someone in your life and don’t know how to help, these resources can offer guidance: 1. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: Text or call 988 2. The Crisis Text Line: Text TALK to 741741 3. The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention