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Is the US facing a youth mental health crisis?

Recent studies indicate that approximately one in five teens between ages twelve and eighteen suffer from at least one diagnosable mental health disorder.

A man expressing sadness with his head in his hands. Image by Tellmeimok. (CC BY-SA 4.0)
A man expressing sadness with his head in his hands. Image by Tellmeimok. (CC BY-SA 4.0)

Mental illnesses are common in the United States. Nearly one in five U.S. adults live with a mental illness. The relatively high rates have recently been subject to a government message, including a concern about the effects upon young people.

In a mental health advisory notification, the U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy has outlined the mental health concerns impacting the U.S. Notably, the youth are amongst the hardest hit.  As an example, data pertaining to adolescents aged between 12 and 17 for those who had a major depressive episode in the past year, finds that the rates have increased from an estimated 8 percent in 2010 to 16 percent, according to data from the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

To support the statement, Telosity by Vinaj Ventures, which is a fund focused on youth mental health and wellbeing, has assessed some of the key data trends.

The data finds that 71 percent of young respondents feel they would benefit from mental health services. In relation to parents and guardians, 85 percent said their child(ren) would benefit from mental health services. These figures suggest a pressing need for more youth mental health related services.

In terms of some of the main causes for mental health issues, survey respondents ranked social anxiety and body image as the no. 1 and no. 2 factors most likely to negative impact their mental health.

Examining youth rates of mental health is also important for predicting societal patterns overall, since many mental health disorders first present during adolescence. Common sources of stress in adolescence are social stress, isolation, or substance abuse.

There was also a feeling that more could be done to address mental health problems. For example, 67 percent of respondents said they believe mental health education should be taught in school. It was felt that this type of learning should include learning to cope this stress and dealing with social anxiety. In terms of the amount of time to be dedicated to this learning, 80 percent suggested 30 minutes per week.

The majority stated that this type of education should be embedded long before students start at high school, perhaps beginning within the ‘pre-school’ phase (or ‘kindergarten’).

The survey was based on polling over 1,000 U.S. adults in June across all demographics in relation to their perceptions and beliefs on how school-age children are coping with mental health challenges. A preview of the data was made available to Digital Journal for analysis.

Written By

Dr. Tim Sandle is Digital Journal's Editor-at-Large for science news. Tim specializes in science, technology, environmental, and health journalism. He is additionally a practising microbiologist; and an author. He is also interested in history, politics and current affairs.

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