Young people in the United States are dealing with a mental health crisis that should have everyone concerned.
High school students who say they have “persistent feelings of sadness or hopelessness” rose from 26 percent to 44 percent between 2009 and 2021, a report for the Centers For Disease Control said, The Atlantic reported.
The survey, conducted among around 8,000 high school students in 2021 showed that one in four girls had seriously thought about attempting suicide during the pandemic, two times that of boys.
LGBTQ students were also deeply damaged during the pandemic, with around half of them saying that they considered suicide during the pandemic, while only 14 percent of heterosexual students said the same.
And white teens, who are routinely told in schools that they are born as racist oppressors, had their sadness rise quicker than any other group.
“Almost every measure of mental health is getting worse, for every teenage demographic, and it’s happening all across the country. Since 2009, sadness and hopelessness have increased for every race; for straight teens and gay teens; for teens who say they’ve never had sex and for those who say they’ve had sex with males and/or females; for students in each year of high school; and for teens in all 50 states and the District of Columbia,” Derek Thompson said, before he went on to give the reasons he believes there is an increase in sadness.
He argued that the pandemic was not the principal cause of the increased sadness and quoted Temple University psychologist Laurence Steinberg who said, “Rising teenage sadness isn’t a new trend, but rather the acceleration and broadening of a trend that clearly started before the pandemic.”
But the psychologist warned that “We shouldn’t ignore the pandemic, either. The fact that COVID seems to have made teen mental health worse offers clues about what’s really driving the rise in sadness.”
One of the issues the author believes is driving the increase in sadness is the use of social media and, moreover, the things that being on social media replaces, like actually being social with peers.
“Today’s teens spend more than five hours daily on social media, and that habit seems to be displacing quite a lot of beneficial activity. The share of high-school students who got eight or more hours of sleep declined 30 percent from 2007 to 2019. Compared with their counterparts in the 2000s, today’s teens are less likely to go out with their friends, get their driver’s license, or play youth sports,” he said.
But he admitted that “the pandemic and the closure of schools likely exacerbated teen loneliness and sadness. A 2020 survey from Harvard’s Graduate School of Education found that loneliness spiked in the first year of the pandemic for everyone, but it rose most significantly for young people.”
He went on to blame overparenting and “accommodative parenting” where kids are kept away from things they dislike and so they never learn how to deal with real life.
“Second, researchers have noted a broad increase in an ‘accommodative’ parenting style. If a girl is afraid of dogs, an “accommodation” would be keeping her away from every friend’s house with a dog, or if a boy won’t eat vegetables, feeding him nothing but turkey loaf for four years,” he said. “These behaviors come from love. But part of growing up is learning how to release negative emotions in the face of inevitable stress. If kids never figure out how to do that, they’re more likely to experience severe anxiety as teenagers.”