Clinical Psychologist: Nearly 30% of teen girls considered suicide

Feb 27, 2023, 2:08 PM
sad or hopeless...
(Photo by Sophie Elbaz/Sygma via Getty Images)
(Photo by Sophie Elbaz/Sygma via Getty Images)

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found nearly three in five teen girls felt “persistently sad or hopeless,” according to its “Youth Risk Behavior Survey Report” over the last 10 years — spanning from 2011 to 2021 — further solidifying concerns over rising rates of depression in younger generations.

The study also reported 30% of teen girls seriously considered suicide, a near-60% jump over the last 10 years.

“That report maps very clearly what we were seeing as clinicians at that time, which is that teens were miserable, absolutely miserable,” said Lisa Damour, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist, on The Gee & Ursula Show. “They were entering their third school year disrupted by the pandemic.”

Washington state has witnessed these escalating rates, as UW Bothell launched a program to train teachers in mental health services after numbers provided by the university showed skyrocketing rates for anxiety and hopelessness.

The program will help the university’s goal to train high school educators, a position that is expected to serve as more than just a teacher to an embattled generation, according to Fleming.

UW to train teachers proper mental health services as demand grows

Teenage boys reported feeling sad or hopeless at a much lower rate, with just 29% of respondents compared to adolescent girls’ 57% mark.

“That is something that fits with what we know about how distress tends to break down by gender,” Damour said. “Girls, when they are upset, tend to turn inward with their distress to become depressed or anxious. Boys are more likely to turn outward to get themselves in trouble or to be hard on others.”

Damour warns parents to look for signs among their children regarding abusing substances, being hard on the people around them, and being harmful to themselves.

“Here’s what I want parents to be on the lookout for,” Damour said. “I want them to be on the lookout, not for their teen’s mood going up and down, which is natural to adolescents, but for their teen’s mood going to a concerning place and staying there, we don’t usually see that. I want them to be on the lookout for their teens using costly ways to manage distress.”

More than 17,000 U.S. high school students were surveyed in class in the fall of 2021 for this youth risk report. Multiracial, Hispanic, and American Indian/Alaskan Native responded with the highest rate of feeling ‘sad or hopeless’ while those who identify as LGBTQ+ dwarfed heterosexuals’ responses, 69% to 35%, respectively.

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Damour stated there is data showing a correlation between social media use and depression or anxiety, but her field is still figuring out what that correlation means.

“While we sort out that controversy, here’s what parents need to do. The first thing I would love for parents to do is to not have digital technology in their kid’s rooms overnight,” Damour explained. “If there’s anything that actually undermines mental health, we know that reduced sleep is a major factor. And we also know that when there’s technology in kids’ rooms overnight, they sleep less.

“The second thing I want parents to do is to be really mindful of where their kids are going online,” Damour continued. “Because the algorithms that drive social media platforms are really dangerous. They pick up what kids may search for once or twice and then keep kids fed with that content. That content can be about eating disorders, that content can be about self-harm, and that content can be about white supremacy. There are some very dark corners of the internet that kids can get pulled towards.”

Listen to Gee Scott and Ursula Reutin weekday mornings from 9 a.m. – 12 p.m. on KIRO Newsradio, 97.3 FM. Subscribe to the podcast here.

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Clinical Psychologist: Nearly 30% of teen girls considered suicide