US teen girls engulfed by 'sadness, violence, trauma': Report

AFP , Monday 13 Feb 2023

US health authorities sounded the alarm Monday about a mental health crisis among American high school students, particularly teenage girls suffering from sadness, violence and trauma.

US health authorities are concerned about a mental health crisis among American high school students, particularly teenage girls. AFP


The Youth Risk Behavior Survey published by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) looked at health behaviors and experiences among high school students from 2011 to 2021.

"These data show a distressing picture," CDC chief medical officer Debra Houry told reporters. "America's teen girls are engulfed in a growing wave of sadness, violence and trauma.

"Over the past decade teens, especially girls, have experienced dramatic increases in experiences of violence and poor mental health and suicide risk," Houry said.

The CDC said several areas of adolescent health and well-being are improving, including risky sexual behavior, alcohol and substance use, and the level of bullying at school.

But mental health among high school students -- who are generally between 15 and 18 years old in the United States -- continued to worsen overall.

Nearly three in five teenage American girls -- 57 percent -- felt persistently sad or hopeless in 2021 -- double that of boys, the report said.

The was a nearly 60 percent increase since 2011 and the highest level reported over the past decade.

Nearly one in three teen girls -- 30 percent -- seriously considered attempting suicide, up nearly 60 percent from a decade ago, and more than twice the number of boys.

Nearly one in five teen girls -- 18 percent -- experienced sexual violence in the past year, up 20 percent since 2017, when CDC started monitoring this measure.

And 14 percent of teen girls had been forced to have sex -- up 27 percent since 2019.

- 'Young people are in crisis' -

"These data are clear -- our young people are in crisis," said Kathleen Ethier, director of the CDC division of adolescent and school health.

"Young people are experiencing a level of distress that calls on us to act with urgency and compassion," Ethier said.

"With the right programs and services in place, schools have the unique ability to help our youth flourish."

The CDC officials said many of the measures of youth mental health had been "moving in the wrong direction" even before the Covid-19 pandemic which began in early 2020.

"The social isolation from the pandemic certainly made things worse," Ethier said. "Young people were separated from their peers and from their community and school supports."

Asked what role social media may play on the worsening mental health of US adolescents, Ethier said "social media certainly contributes.

"Although, in our data, young people are not reporting more electronic bullying," she said.

According to the report, teens who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or questioning (LGBQ+) face extremely high levels of violence and mental health challenges.

Fifty-two percent of LGBQ+ students had recently experienced poor mental health and more than one in five -- 22 percent -- attempted suicide in the past year, the report said.

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