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'Our young people are in crisis': CDC releases National Youth Risk Behavior Survey

Published: Wednesday, February 22, 2023 - 3:17pm

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has released a report for the first National Youth Risk Behavior Survey conducted since the pandemic. It found that in 2021, teenage girls disproportionately experienced persistent sadness. Teen girls and LGBTQ students both reported an increase in suicidal ideations and behaviors.  Overall, 40% of high schoolers said they felt so sad or hopeless in 2021 that they couldn’t engage in regular activities.

Kathleen Ethier is CDC's director of adolescent and school health.

“Although we have seen worsening trends in mental health for young people over the last 10 years,” Ethier said, “the levels of poor mental health and suicidal thoughts and behaviors reported by teenage girls are now higher than we have ever seen.”

Ethier said schools are on the front lines of a youth mental health crisis, but implementing programs and tools to support them provides a lifeline for many.

“These data are clear,” Ethier said. “Our young people are in crisis. And schools are on the front lines of this crisis, and they must be equipped with the tools to support young people.”

Ethier says part of that means involving teens in their communities.

Judy Subaitis is the principal at Banner Academy, a private school that specializes in students with emotional and learning disabilities as well as mental health struggles. She said the support they receive at school and home can vary, but is crucial.

“It’s imperative,” Subaitis said. “It can make or break the child.”

Subaitis said this also looks like actions over words.

“It’s more what you do rather than to sit and have the conversation,” Subaitis said. “It’s, you know, social interaction. It’s getting them in person.”

For example, she said supporting teens in finding interests they enjoy is one way to help teens cope.

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