A CDC report has revealed that almost 3 in 5 teenage girls in the United States reported feeling persistently sad or hopeless almost every day for at least two weeks in a row.
The worrying findings were gathered through a survey, which has been conducted every other year for three decades, and draws responses from 17,232 U.S. high school students.
The newly released report found an “overwhelming wave of violence and trauma” among female teenagers, and higher than ever levels of hopelessness, extreme sadness, and suicidal thoughts among highschoolers in the U.S.
The Centres for Disease and Control Prevention (CDC) releasing its findings, said that traumatic experiences, including sexual attacks, had resulted in ‘unprecedented’ levels of hopelessness and suicidality among young women in America.
Director of the CDC’s Division on Adolescent and School Health, Kathleen Ethier, said mental health has been impacted.
“Our teenage girls are suffering through an overwhelming wave of violence and trauma, and it’s affecting their mental health,” Ethier said.
Neatly 3 in 5 teenage girls – 57% – said they felt “persistently sad or hopeless” representing the highest rate in a decade. Meanwhile, 30% said they had seriously contemplated taking their own lives – a percentage which has soared by nearly 60% in the last ten years.
Among teen girls, the findings were also stark, with 1 in 5 surveyed reporting that they had experienced sexual violence within the last year. According to the CDC, 14% of the thousands surveyed said they had been forced into having sex, representing an increase from 11% of teen girls who said they had been victims of sexual assault in 2019.
Taking into account males and females, overall, more than 40% of boys and girls surveyed reported feeling so “sad or hopeless” within the past 12 months that they were not able to complete their regular activities, including playing sports or doing schoolwork, for a period of at least two weeks. Researchers found that girls were “far more likely” to report such feelings compared to boys.
The survey found that 41% of females had experienced poor mental health in the 30 days prior, compared with 18% of males.
In terms of race, 33% of biracial students surveyed reported experiencing poor mental health, followed by American Indian/Alaskan native (31%), along with white students (30%) and latino students (30%). 26 per cent of black students reported recent mental health struggles, while Asian students reported experiencing less poor mental health overall (23%).
Sexual orientation of the teenagers surveyed appeared to play a key part with regards to mental health, with those identifying as LGBT+ experiencing far higher rates of poor mental health. Strikingly, 52 per cent those who identified as LGBT+ said they struggled with their mental health, compared to 22 per cent of students who said they were heterosexual.
58% of those who listed people of the same sex as sexual contacts said they had considered suicide, compared with 26% of teens who only had sexual contacts of the opposite sex.
When it came to teens who had sexual partners, those who identified those of the same sex as sexual contacts also had a higher rate of poor mental health – 54 per cent – compared to 32 per cent of those who identified partners of the opposite sex.
The survey also asked students whether they had seriously considered suicide. Findings indicated that more than one in five teens identifying as LGBT+ – 22 per cent – said they had attempted suicide within the past 12 months. Meanwhile, LGBT+ students also had the highest rate of seriously considering suicide – 45% compared to 15% of heterosexual students.
The overall rate of suicide ideation sat at 22% among all students surveyed, representing a disconcerting increase overall.
30% of female teens surveyed said they had seriously considered ending their lives, compared to 14% of male teenagers.
White students were slightly more likely than black students to have considered suicide, while Asian students had the lowest rate of suicide ideation (18%).
The survey reported a decline in teen alcohol use. In 2011, 39% surveyed said they had consumed alcohol in the prior 30 days. This had dropped to 23% in the new survey, while marijuna use was also down from 23% in 2011 to 16%. Opioid use was also on the decline, with 12% saying they had ever misused prescription opioids, down from 14% in 2017.
NUMBER OF IRISH CHILDREN HOSPITALISED WITH ANXIETY INCREASES
In Ireland, political pressure has been building for concrete action to be taken after a recent report into Ireland’s Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) found it to be disjointed, difficult to access and with a lack of monitoring in certain cases. The report led to claims that existing healthcare infrastructure here is not meeting the demand for mental health support among young people who are struggling.
The Mental Health Commission’s report found that acceptance rates of referrals varied hugely regionally between 38% and 81%. The report founds that some teams were not monitoring children who were on antipsychotic medication, and that there was no IT system in most services to manage appointments.
The report was described as “one of the most damaging reports to have been presented to government in living memory” by opposition TDs.
The findings, published in January of this year, found that some children and adolescents seeking mental health treatment were not getting appointments for up to two years.
A June 2022 report found that the number of children hospitalised across Ireland for anxiety had surged by nearly a third during the first year of Covid lockdowns. The study, carried out in UCD, found sharp spikes in the numbers of distressed Irish children being admitted to hospital for anxiety and eating disorders.
Over the first year of the Covid pandemic, hospital admissions for eating disorders soared by 42%, while there was a 47% increase in hospital admissions for anorexia compared to the previous year (2019).
The study, which is published in the International Review of Psychiatry, found that the number of children – mainly young teenagers – admitted to Irish hospitals with anxiety rose by 29% in the first 12 months of Covid, while admissions for self-harm increased by 3%.