INDIANAPOLIS — New data from the US Centers for Disease Control shows the COVID-19 pandemic took a harsh toll on teen mental health.
Almost 60 percent of teen girls reported feelings of persistent sadness or hopelessness. Girls and LGBTQ youth fared the worst on most measurements. The CDC says young people are in crisis.
“It was surprising information for certain demographics, but I’m not surprised by the increase overall because COVID has affected so many people in so many factors of their lives,” said Janae Garner-Kelly.
Garner-Kelly is a Crisis Services Coordinator for Mental Health America of Indiana.
“The CDC report speaks on suicide has lots of risk factors, financial problems, relationship problems, job loss,” she said. “So many lives have been lost through COVID so this is so sad this is the fact now.”
The research found that 30 percent of girls said they seriously considered attempting suicide. That number is almost double the rate among boys and up almost 60 percent from just a decade ago.
“Things are hard and I think our youth are feeling that,” said Whitney Nixon.
Nixon, a Service Provider Support Director for Indiana Youth Services Association, said experts can’t pinpoint just one reason for the sharp increase, but that the pandemic was hugely impactful on kids.
“Kids were struggling and we weren’t always able to provide them with the support and resources they needed,” Nixon said. “Now we’re seeing the backend of that where we are still struggling, even though they’re getting back to typical school situations.”
Research also found almost half of LGBTQ students said they had seriously considered a suicide attempt. More than one-third of children of all races and ethnicities were affected by persistent sadness and hopelessness, though experts say help is available.
“There are resources out there and one of the greatest resources is making sure our teens know what to do,” Nixon said.
Nixon said teens should talk to their parents, teachers or school guidance counselors. Other resources are available by texting or calling 988, a 24/7 answered helpline.
‘Be Well Indiana‘ is part of the state’s commitment to improving mental health and offers free resources, like tips on prioritizing mental health or how to tell someone you are struggling.
“It really is just scary to hear your child say they’re having these thoughts, but I think the biggest thing parents can do is have a conversation with their kids,” Nixon said.