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Teen Girls Experiencing Record Levels of Sadness and Suicide Risk, CDC Says

The real epidemic now for teens isn't COVID it's depression. Lots of potential reasons. I suspect social media and pressure to compete for a limited number of coveted college spots may have something to do with this?


Ironic that four years of college may have become obsolete for many as the direct cost and failure to join the full-time workforce for four years is unsustainable?


Is the incessant narrative on systematic racism, gender identity and wokeness (curtailment of free speech) helping to provide better mental health? Probably not?


Teen Girls Experiencing Record Levels of Sadness and Suicide Risk, CDC Says

Teens reported increasing experiences of violence and suicidal thoughts, but girls fared worse than boys


The new CDC data highlighted the problem of mental health among young people, especially girls.


By Sarah Toy, WSJ

Updated Feb. 13, 2023 3:57 pm ET


Nearly three out of five high-school girls in the U.S. who were surveyed reported feelings of persistent sadness or hopelessness in 2021, a roughly 60% increase over the past decade, new research from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found.


Though both high-school girls and boys reported experiencing mental-health challenges, girls reported record high levels of sexual violence, sadness and suicide risk, the CDC said. In 2021, 57% of high-school girls reported experiencing persistent feelings of sadness or hopelessness in the past year, compared with 36% in 2011. Thirty percent reported they seriously considered attempting suicide in 2021, up from 19% in 2011.


The CDC found that 29% of high-school boys reported experiences of persistent feelings of sadness or hopelessness in 2021 compared with 21% in 2011. Meanwhile, 14% of high-school boys reported to have seriously considered attempting suicide, up from 13% in 2011.


“These data show that the mental-health crisis among young people continues,” said Kathleen Ethier, director of CDC’s division of adolescent and school health.


Federal officials highlighted the problem of mental health among young people, especially girls, in the new data released Monday. The data, gathered from a biennial survey from 2011 to 2021 of ninth- to 12th-graders across the country, add to evidence suggesting the stresses, isolation and loss of the Covid-19 pandemic worsened mental-health issues among young people, many of whom were already struggling.


Girls are particularly vulnerable to anxiety and depression, mental-health experts say, given the higher rates of harassment and discrimination they face compared with boys. They also face career pressures, high beauty standards and the expectation of motherhood, they say.


The CDC, which included 17,232 respondents in its 2021 data, said the report showed ongoing and extreme distress among teens who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, questioning their sexual identity, or another nonheterosexual gender identity. More than half of these students reported recently experiencing poor mental health and 22% reported attempted suicide the past year, the CDC said. The report also showed that persistent sadness or hopelessness worsened across all racial and ethnic groups, and reported suicide attempts increased among Black and white youth.


Among the teenagers surveyed, girls were more likely to experience sexual violence, the CDC found. Eighteen percent of girls in high school said they experienced sexual violence in the past year, compared with 15% in 2017, the first year the CDC began monitoring this trend. Fourteen percent of teenage girls reported being forced to have sex when they did not want to, up from 12% in 2011, the CDC said.


“This is truly alarming,” said Dr. Ethier. “For every 10 teenage girls you know, at least one of them, and probably more, has been raped.”


The U.S. needs to focus on programs that will prevent sexual violence, said Debra Houry, CDC chief medical officer and deputy director for program and science. She referenced programs like Green Dot, which encourages bystanders to take action against sexual harassment and violence, as part of the solution.


Schools should prioritize teaching kids about sexual consent, managing emotions and asking for what they need, the CDC said. In addition, school environments need to be safer and more inclusive for LGBTQ+ students, the agency added. Schools should encourage gender and sexuality alliances, provide safe spaces and people for LGBTQ+ students to go to for support, and ensure enforcement of antiharassment policies, the CDC said.


The CDC also called on schools to take a more active role in improving mental health. Schools are a key pathway to health, behavioral and mental-health services, the agency said, and can provide services directly or refer students to resources in the community.


“This feels uniquely validating—the CDC has caught up to what we’re dealing with,” said Shilpa R. Taufique, a clinical psychologist and director of the Comprehensive Adolescent Rehabilitation and Education Service at Mount Sinai Morningside, a program that works with New York City’s Department of Education to provide therapy and educational support to at-risk youth in an alternative school district. She called on federal agencies to funnel more resources into schools and training of school staff and administrators, in particular.


—Help is available: Reach the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline (formerly known as the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline) by dialing or texting 988.

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