CDC: One in Three Teenage Girls Considered Suicide in Past Year, Reports of Depression Up 60%
A new report from the CDC shows a dramatic rise in youth depression and suicidal behavior. Nearly three out of five high school girls reported feeling depressed in 2021, a 60% increase over the past decade. The CDC did not address the cause of the recent spike, but the report’s findings are consistent with the rapid decline in youth mental health experienced after the COVID-19 lockdowns.
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“Many of the same behaviors and experiences that were moving in the wrong direction before the pandemic, like poor mental health, continued to worsen,” the report stated. Overall, 42 percent of respondents said they had experienced “persistent feelings of sadness or hopelessness” in the past year – including 57 percent of teenage girls and 29 percent of teenage boys. 22 percent of total respondents said they had seriously considered attempting suicide.
“These data are clear,” CDC official Kathleen Ethier said. “Our young people are in crisis.”
The CDC’s Youth Risk Behavior Survey is conducted every two years. The report explored several factors in the youth mental health crisis, including substance abuse and bullying. The report also found that sexual violence against teen girls had increased by 20 percent since 2017.
“The levels of poor mental health and suicidal thoughts and behaviors recorded by teenage girls are now higher than we have ever seen,” said CDC official Kathleen Ethier.
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Ethier also blamed prolonged social media use as a factor in low self-esteem and increased suicidal behavior among teens.
One factor that was not discussed in the report was the widespread implementation of lockdown policy in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. A 2021 report by the CDC found that mental health-related emergency room visits among adolescents shot up by 31 percent compared to levels prior to the pandemic. Among teenage girls, emergency room visits for suicide attempts increased by more than 50 percent. The report stated,
“Young persons might represent a group at high risk because they might have been particularly affected by mitigation measures, such as physical distancing (including a lack of connectedness to schools, teachers, and peers); barriers to mental health treatment; increases in substance use; and anxiety about family health and economic problems, which are all risk factors for suicide.”
Despite adolescents not being at serious risk of developing COVID-19 symptoms, lockdown policy, specifically school closures, dramatically impacted the mental well-being of America’s youngest generation. The reopening of schools has had little effect on reversing the mental health crisis. According to Monday’s CDC report, the crisis continues to worsen.
CDC officials proposed implementing new mental health programs in schools to try and help teens cope with depression. Those programs include additional training for faculty to recognize mental health challenges in students and expanded access to counseling.
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“These data show a distressing picture,” said Debra Houry, the CDC’s chief medical officer. “Schools are on the frontlines of the mental health crisis, and they must be equipped with the proven tools that help students thrive.”
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