The kids are not alright, health experts are warning.
A new survey conducted by the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has reported that teens — girls, especially — are experiencing record-high levels of violence and dangerously poor mental health.
The CDC released its bi-annual Youth Risk Behavior Survey on Monday, sharing the disturbing reality of teen angst today, particuarly since the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdowns drastically upended the world — and their adolescence.
The survey revealed that nearly all indicators of poor mental health among high schoolers, including suicidal thoughts and behaviors, have increased in the last decade.
“Young people are experiencing a level of distress that calls on us to act with urgency and compassion,” said CDC Division of Adolescent and School Health Director Kathleen Ethier in a public statement. “With the right programs and services in place, schools have the unique ability to help our youth flourish.”
In particular, rates of anxiety, depressio a nd suicidal thoughts “increased dramatically” among students who are female and in the LGBTQ+ community. Most teen girls (57%) felt persistently sad or hopeless in 2021, which is double the rate for teen boys (29%). Nearly one in three teen girls seriously considered attempting suicide. Alongside them, the majority LGBQ+ students (52%) have also recently experienced poor mental health, as more than one in five attempted suicide in the past year.
But teenagers all across the board are struggling. The percentage of students who felt persistently sad or hopeless has increased among all racial and ethnic groups, while most measurements of adolescent health and well-being have “worsened significantly” in recent years.
The numer of students who did not go to school because of safety concerns; female students who experienced sexual violence by anyone and forced to have sex; and male students experiencing electronic bullying have all gone up, and agree it’s had a severe impact on their mental health.
Black and Hispanic students were most likely to avoid school because of safety concerns. Meanwhle, white students were more likely than others to experience sexual violence, specifcally — and were the only group to see an increase in that measure.
These stressers are impacting their lives in a multitude of ways, the CDC authors warned.
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More than 40% of high school students said that feelings of sadness or hopelessness prevented them from engaging in their regular activities for at least two weeks of the year; 18% admitted to having made a suicide plan in the past year and 10% had attempted suicide one or more times during the past year. It was noted that although black students were less likely to report poor mental health than some other groups of students, they were significantly more likely than their Asian, Hispanic and white peers to have attempted suicide.
On a positive note, several isolated measures of adolescent health and well-being have improved, including declines in risky sexual behavior, substance use and in-school bullying.
Researchers saw improvement among students upon return to in-school learning, as feeling connected to classmates is thought to have a long-term positive impact on almost all the behaviors and experiences addressed in the report. Although white male students are most likely to feel close to people at school, learning alongside others was a boon to 61% of respondents overall.
The most recent Youth Risk Behavior study is just one of a growing catalogue of research digging into the dire state of teens’ mental health and the depression epidemic.
This article was originally posted by The New York Post.