Daily Column – 25th April 2022

This article discusses teen self-harm, depression, and suicide in the United States. Here are some resources for people who are struggling with these problems.

The mental health epidemic among America’s young is escalating, and public health specialists are racing to find the core causes before it worsens.

First, the numbers: According to a recent CDC study, the percentage of American high school students who report “chronic feelings of melancholy or hopelessness” increased from 26% to a record 44 percent between 2009 and 2021. From 2001 to 2019, the number of emergency room visits for self-harm among teenagers aged 10 to 19 increased by 88 percent.

The New York Times and The Atlantic have published articles on the problem of American youth’s mental health deterioration. Here are some key points to remember:

This was going on even before the outbreak. It’s not simply a Covid lockdown narrative that’s causing the mental health issue. After plateauing from 2000 to 2007, suicide rates for adults aged 10–24 increased by about 60% by 2018. Between 2007 and 2019, the percentage of adolescents who experienced a major depressive episode increased by 60%.

The epidemic exacerbated the situation. Covid, as well as the associated restrictions on socialisation, amplified feelings of loneliness and despair. A consortium of children’s hospitals and clinicians urged Congress to “address this mental health crisis like the emergency it is,” citing a “shocking” 45 percent spike in the number of self-injury and suicide cases among 5- to 17-year-olds in the first half of 2021.

It’s unclear how this relates to social media. Social media corporations have been chastised for contributing to the teen mental health epidemic. According to the New York Times, a big research of more than 84,000 people of all ages in the United Kingdom revealed that the link between social media use and teen well-being is “pretty weak.” Heavy social media use, on the other hand, is associated with decreased life satisfaction at particular ages: 11–13 for girls, 14–15 for boys, and 19 for both sexes.

Big picture: What makes the situation so confounding is that, according to several behavioural indicators, high school students are performing significantly better than they were previously. Cigarette consumption is at an all-time low. Binge drinking is on the decline. Over the last few decades, the use of illegal narcotics like OxyContin has plummeted. The teen birthrate has also decreased. The top-of-mind public health dangers for teenagers in previous decades have given way to a plethora of new risks that may interact—and reinforce each other—in ways that researchers are still trying to figure out.

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