Girls and teens who identified as gay or bisexual shared high rates of sadness, suicidal ideation, and sexual violence.

According to data released on Monday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly three in five teenage girls will experience persistent sadness in 2021, which is double the rate of boys. Additionally, one in three girls will seriously consider making an attempt at suicide.

Teens who identify as lesbian, gay, or bisexual were also found to have high rates of violence, depression, and suicidal ideation, according to national surveys. The agency found that more than one in five of these students attempted suicide in the year prior to the survey.

The highest rates of sadness that have been reported in a decade are indicative of a national tragedy that has been brewing for some time and has been exacerbated by the pandemic’s isolation and stress.

The head of the CDC’s adolescent and school health program, Dr. Kathleen Ethier, stated, “I think there’s really no question what this data is telling us.” We are hearing from young people that they are in trouble.

In the fall of 2021, the Youth Risk Behavior Survey was administered to 17,000 adolescents at high schools across the United States. The overview is led at regular intervals, and the paces of psychological well-being issues have gone up with each report beginning around 2011, Dr. Ethier said.

The director of behavioral health education and integration in pediatrics at Weill Cornell Medicine in New York City, Dr. Cori Green, stated, “There was a mental health crisis before the pandemic—it just didn’t catch everyone’s attention the way it does now.”

However, Dr. Green stated that she is seeing an increase in the number of her young patients who test positive for depression on screenings. She stated that the pandemic increased social isolation, which is a risk factor for depression.

She also mentioned that the survey might not fully reflect the fact that depression symptoms sometimes manifest differently in boys and girls. She stated that while the survey asked about the persistent sadness or hopelessness that girls with depression frequently experience, boys with depression frequently exhibit irritability or aggression.

The survey results suggested that teenagers were doing better than in previous years on a few topics. For instance, they reported lower rates of school-based bullying and the use of illegal drugs. Additionally, teens are having fewer sexual encounters and partners than in previous years.

However, during the previous year, approximately 57% of girls and 69% of gay, lesbian, or bisexual adolescents reported experiencing sadness on a daily basis for at least two weeks. In addition, 20% of gay, lesbian, or bisexual adolescents and 14% of girls, up from 12% in 2011, reported having been forced to have sex at some point in their lives.

According to Dr. Ethier of the C.D.C., “When we’re looking at experiences of violence, girls are experiencing almost every type of violence more than boys.” According to her, researchers ought to be studying both the increase in reports of violence and the factors that lead to it: We need to talk about what’s going on with teenage boys that could cause them to commit sexual violence.

Black and Hispanic students were found to be more likely to report skipping school due to concerns about violence, according to the researchers’ analysis of the data by race and ethnicity. However, the proportion of White students who reported experiencing sexual violence was higher.

Over the past ten years, all racial groups reported an increase in feelings of sadness and hopelessness. Black students were more likely than white, Asian, or Hispanic adolescents to attempt suicide, despite being less likely than other groups to report these negative feelings.

Data on risk factors for transgender students is unavailable because the 2021 survey did not inquire about students’ gender identity but did inquire about their sexual orientation.

According to Dr. Victor Fornari, vice chair of child and adolescent psychiatry at Northwell Health, New York’s largest health system, the rise of smartphones coincided with the decline in teen well-being. He stated that there is “no question” of an association between the use of social media and the dramatic increase in suicidal behavior and depressive mood, despite the fact that the technology’s full impact on adolescents’ mental health is still unknown.

He stated, “Kids are now susceptible to cyberbullying and negative remarks such as “I hate you” and “Nobody likes you.” Every time, it feels like a harpoon on their heart.”

The C.D.C. report found that more girls than boys reported being cyberbullied. One in five girls, or almost twice as many as boys, said they had been the target of electronic bullying.

Dr. Fornari added that the number of adolescents seeking treatment for suicidal thoughts or attempts in the emergency room at Long Island Jewish Medical Center in New Hyde Park, where he practices, has significantly increased in recent decades. 250 teens who were considering suicide visited the emergency room in 1982. By 2010, the number had expanded to 3,000. 8,000 by the year 2022.

Dr. Fornari stated, “We don’t have enough therapists to care for all these kids.”

However, the C.D.C. report also noted that, since 2011, the percentage of adolescents who reported needing medical attention for a serious suicide attempt has remained fairly stable at around 2% or 3%.

Numerous individuals consider ending their lives. The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention’s senior vice president of research, Dr. Jill Harkavy-Friedman, stated, “The majority of them will not act on it.” With this, we don’t want to cause any panic. We want people to begin having these conversations, checking in, and then devising a strategy to assist one another.

After a two-year decline, suicide rates among younger Americans and people of color increased, according to a gloomy report from the C.D.C. released last week.

The C.D.C. report focused on that sound connections at school can work on young people’s psychological well-being.

Dr. Ethier stated, “Young people who feel connected in middle school and high school 20 years later have better mental health, are less likely to use drugs, are less likely to attempt suicide, and are less likely to be perpetrators or victims of violence.” Therefore, being connected to one’s school is a powerful safeguard.


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