Sadness, Violence, Suicide Teen Girls Facing Growing Wave of Distress.
Sadness, Violence, Suicide Teen Girls Facing Growing Wave of Distress. © Images AGN

A look at survey data shows that more high school girls in the U.S. have been hurt by trauma and have poor mental health.

A new federal report shows that teen girls in the U.S. are facing alarmingly high rates of sexual violence, suicide risk, and long-term sadness.

Nearly one-third of female high school students in 2021 said they felt sad or hopeless almost every day for at least two weeks straight in the past year. This made them stop doing things they usually did, according to a report released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Monday. Compared to 2011, when 36% of people said the same thing, this is a rise of more than 58% and the highest level of reports in a decade.

According to the report, the number of male high school students who felt sad or hopeless all the time rose from 21% in 2011 to 29% in 2021.

In 2021, about 18% of high school girls had experienced sexual violence in the past year, up from 15% in 2017. Also, 14% of girls had ever been forced to have sex, up from 12% in 2011.

During a call with reporters on Monday, Dr. Debra Houry, the CDC’s chief medical officer and a deputy director, said, “These data paint a troubling picture.” “There is a growing wave of sadness, violence, and trauma among American teenage girls.”

The report’s conclusions are based on data from the Youth Risk Behavior Survey that was taken in the fall of 2021. This was the first time the survey was taken since the COVID-19 pandemic began. The survey is done every two years with a sample of public and private high school students from all over the country, the report says.

Girls did worse than boys on many of the measures in the report, whether the measure was about risky behaviour, violence, or thoughts of suicide. In 2021, more than 40% of high school girls and about 1/5 of high school boys had bad mental health in the past 30 days. 30% of female students seriously thought about suicide in the past year, which is up from 19% in 2011 and about double the 14% of male students who said the same thing.

Girls were also more likely to make a plan to kill themselves. In 2011, 15% of girls had done this, but by 2021, that number had jumped to 24%. Only 12% of boys had done this. And 13% of female students had tried to kill themselves in the past year, which is up from 10% in 2011. Only 7% of male students had done this.

In 2011, 38% of high school girls had drunk alcohol in the last 30 days. In 2021, only 27% of high school girls had done so. The number of high school boys who drink regularly dropped more quickly, from 39% in 2011 to 19% in 2021.

Girls were also more likely than boys to be using marijuana and electronic vapour products right now. The report found that they were more likely to have ever used cocaine, heroin, and other illegal drugs, as well as to have abused prescription opioids.

Concerning results were also found among students who identified as lesbian, gay, bisexual, questioning, or another nonheterosexual identity. Almost 70% of LGBQ+ students felt sad or hopeless most of the time, while only 35% of heterosexual students did.

More than half of LGBQ+ students had bad mental health in the past 30 days, and 22% had tried to kill themselves in the past year. This is more than double the number of heterosexual students who tried to kill themselves, which was only 6%. The 2021 survey did not ask about gender identity, so there was no information about transgender students in the report.

Officials said that schools and activities at schools protect young people in the U.S.

On Monday’s call, Kathleen Ethier, head of the CDC’s Division of Adolescent and School Health, said, “Our young people are in crisis, and schools are on the front lines of this crisis. Schools must be given the tools they need to help young people.”

The analysis found that about 6 out of 10 students felt close to people at school, and past research has shown that “school connectedness” can help protect students’ mental health. In an executive summary, the new analysis calls for “social and emotional learning programmes in early grades and youth development programmes in middle and high school” to help people connect more. It also says that gender and sexuality alliances, anti-harassment policies, and other measures can make schools safer and more welcoming for LGBTQ+ students.

Ethier said that school-based programmes can give students the resources and support they need, but that training teachers to deal with mental health problems that may come up in their classrooms can also be a good first step.

“That really keeps a lot of problems from happening,” Ethier said. “Instead of giving schools more work to do, it can really help teachers out if we just make sure they know how to handle these problems.”

Please call or text 988 if you or someone you know is having trouble or a crisis or chat at 988lifeline.org.

Tags: mental health, teens, students

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