America’s teenage girls are experiencing increased levels of sadness, hopelessness and even suicidal thoughts, says a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Results from the CDC’s 2021 Youth Risk Behavior Survey show 57 percent of teenage girls said they felt “persistently sad or hopeless” while 30 percent said they seriously considered committing suicide. That percentage has risen nearly 60 percent over the past 10 years.
“Our teenage girls are suffering through an overwhelming wave of violence and trauma, and it’s affecting their mental health,” said Kathleen Ethier, director of the CDC’s Division of Adolescent and School Health.
The survey, which has been conducted every other year for the past three decades, included responses from 17,232 U.S. high school students. When researchers looked at the gender differences, they found that girls were much more likely to report feelings of sadness and hopelessness than boys.
During a CDC briefing Monday, the CDC’s chief medical officer Dr. Debra Houry said that as a parent to a teenage girl, she is heartbroken by the news and is “driven to act” as a public health leader.
The survey also found that LGBTQ kids were more likely to suffer from stress and mental health issues.
An uptick in violent behavior and sexual assault targeted at girls is a likely cause of the findings. Earlier this month a 14-year-old NJ girl who was the target of bullying and physical violence at her school died by suicide. And more girls are reporting sexual violence or being forced into sex.
Parents of teens should be on alert for red flags such as changes in their teen’s eating or sleeping patterns, withdrawal from friends and family and any other unusual behavior. Start open-ended conversations with teens about mental health issues and ask them who they would call in a crisis. If your teen is going through a tough time, make sure she knows help is available.
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