“Youth In Crisis” — Mental Health Challenges Soar During Pandemic
The pandemic exacted a heavy toll on US high school students last year, when 1 in 5 reported contemplating suicide and 44% said they persistently felt “sad or hopeless,” the CDC warned in a new report.
The CDC said the findings show youth “in crisis” and reflect a “cry for help.” The report is based on a national survey of 7,700 high school students during the first six months of 2021.
Girls and LGBTQ+ students suffered much higher rates of mental health challenges. More than 75% of LGBTQ+ students said they felt persistently “sad or hopeless,” compared with 37% of heterosexual students. And 57% of females reported these persistent feelings, compared with 31% of males.
Nearly half of LGBTQ+ students reported contemplating suicide, compared with 14% of their heterosexual peers. More than 1 in 4 girls reported contemplating suicde, twice the rate of boys.
The report, the latest to sound the alarm about mental health challenges among youths, also found they endured enormous challenges at home. As many as 55% reported suffering emotional abuse by a parent or other adult; more than 11% said they had endured physical abuse by a parent or other adult; and 29% said a parent or other adult in their homes had lost a job.
The CDC said those who felt the greatest sense of belonging and most connected to someone at school were less likely to report persistent feelings of sadness or hopelessness and less likely to seriously consider suicide. But less than half of students said they felt close to people at school at a time when many schools remained in remote learning.
— Gary Gately, The Juice
RELATED STORY: Schools Fail to Meet Students’ Mental Health Needs
US schools fall far short in responding to students’ mental health challenges even as 5% of teens contemplate suicide with alarming frequency, a pair of new studies show.
The Hopeful Futures Campaign, a coalition of 17 school mental health groups, released “America’s School Mental Health Report Card.” It found that none of the 50 states come close to meeting students’ mental health needs. The researchers graded schools on eight factors, including providing adequate teacher and staff training to identify and meet students’ mental health issues, mental health education for students, and the ratio of school counselors to students.
The other study, published in the Journal of Developmental & Behavioral Pediatrics, found that 5% of adolescents had reported thoughts of ending their lives at least several times in the previous two weeks. Researchers based the findings on responses from 5,411 youths ages 11–17 who completed questionnaires measuring suicidal thoughts and other mental health problems.
Those who reported frequent thoughts of suicide also were much more likely to suffer depression, anxiety, and attention difficulties.
Mental health issues among adolescents have spiked during the pandemic. Even before it began, suicide had been the second leading cause of death among US youths ages 10–24.
“We must urgently help teenagers at the highest risk of suicide,” said study co-author Dr. Michael Jellinek, a psychiatrist at Massachusetts General Hospital. However, Jellinek added that mental health providers and school counselors must address a wider range of mental health problems among youths.
Gary Gately, The Juice
RELATED STORY : Surgeon General Delivers “Urgent” Appeal to Respond to Youth Mental Health Crisis
Warning of skyrocketing depression, anxiety, and other mental health issues among youths, US Surgeon General Vivek Murthy on Tuesday delivered an “urgent” appeal for swift action to respond to the crisis.
“For a generation of children facing unprecedented pressures and stresses, day in and day out, change can’t come soon enough,” Dr. Murthy said. “But most importantly, they are treatable, and often preventable.”
Dr. Murthy’s 53-page advisory noted that symptoms of depression and anxiety have doubled during the pandemic. That’s partly due to isolation and the struggles of remote learning. 25% of youths suffer symptoms of depression; 20%, symptoms of anxiety. Other mental health issues have soared as well.
In a series of recommendations, Dr. Murthy called on parents, schools, community groups, governments, social media and other media companies, and the mental health community to respond to the crisis. Among the recommendations:
- Expand youths’ access to behavioral and mental healthcare services, including through telehealth and increasing school-based mental health staff.
- Increase data collection and research to identify and respond to youth mental health needs more rapidly.
- Increase research on the relationship between social media and youth mental health.
- Identify and address the economic and social barriers that contribute to poor mental health for young people, families, and caregivers.
- Stress to kids suffering mental health issues that they’re not alone, that plenty of help is available, and that there’s no stigma in admitting struggles and seeking help.
— Gary Gately, The Juice
RELATED STORY : Medical Groups Declare Youth Mental Health Crisis a “National Emergency”
Rampant fear, anxiety, depression, and isolation among youths during the COVID-19 pandemic have prompted leading child health care groups to declare a “national emergency” in child and adolescent mental health.
The American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, and the Children’s Hospital Association jointly issued the declaration. They said the pandemic had sharply increased youth mental health concerns. Youth mental health issues had already been rising for a decade.
The groups represent more than 77,000 physicians. They called for increased government funding to ensure families have access to mental health services. That includes screening, diagnosis, and treatment. Access to mental health care in schools, telemedicine, and increased suicide-prevention efforts also must be priorities, the physicians said.
They noted that emergency department visits for mental health emergencies and suspected suicide attempts have spiked during the pandemic. Children of color have been especially hard hit by mental health challenges brought on by COVID deaths, lockdowns, quarantines, and other pandemic matters. For example, the overwhelming majority of the 140,000 children who lost a parent or other caregiver to COVID have been children of color. This has led to widespread, often untreated grief, the physicians found.
The Biden administration has responded to the crisis by investing nearly $85 million for child mental health awareness, training, and treatment.
Experts say youths should never be ashamed of suffering mental health issues. They need to know they are not alone. Trained professionals can help youths overcome mental health challenges so they can get back to enjoying life.
— Gary Gately, The Juice