HOUSTON, Texas – Teen mental health is in crisis, according to a recent survey by the Center Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The numbers are particularly frightening for teen girls- who are confronting the highest levels of sexual violence, sadness, and hopelessness. Just as terrifying, teens who identify as LGBTQ+ are experiencing extremely high levels of mental distress, violence, and substance use.
Here are some of those disturbing numbers:
- Almost 1 in 5 teen girls experienced sexual violence in the past year—a significant increase from 2017.
- 3 in 5 girls felt persistently sad and hopeless.
- In 2021, almost half of LGBQ+ students seriously considered attempting suicide, with nearly 1 in 4 attempted suicide.
- Nearly 3 in 4 LGBTQ+ teens reported persistent feelings of sadness or hopelessness.
So, what can parents do?
“Parents really know their kids better than anyone else,” said Dr. Carol Nwelue, Baylor Scott & Health.
Dr. Nwelue said some of the signs parents should be on the lookout for in their children include becoming more withdrawn — not really wanting to be around family or friends as they used to.
“Maybe they have a temper that they didn’t usually have or used to have. And they seem to be very busy. And speaking very quickly, these could be signs that something else is going on,” she shared.
Warning signs can also be tricky because of changes due to puberty. Dr. Nwelue says hormonal levels do affect behavior, and even a teen’s thought process.
“That is normal for boys and girls. But what we’re looking for is really drastic changes in their behaviors,” she said.
To help identify warning signs, the CDC recommends parents speaking with those who are regularly in communication with their teen – other family members, friends, and especially teachers.
“Teachers are used to seeing kids in this age range and kind of can tell what is normal behavior on what might be abnormal,” said Dr. Nwelue.