MENTAL HEALTH

Pay More Attention to the Girls

Teen girls more hopeless, suicidal than teen boys, survey found

Vanessa Gallman
4 min readMar 23, 2023

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Photo by Joshua Rawson-Harris on Unsplash

Recently, my news feed has included a steady stream about teen girls, feted as “social media influencers,” who committed suicide. Even more unnerving than the loss of a young life is the lack of shock or outrage in the reporting, as if the deaths are as routine as those of elderly celebrities.

It made more sense after a new federal survey reported a dramatic increase in depression and despair among teen girls — much more than with boys.

The Youth Behavior Risk survey by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that, in 2021, 57 percent of high-school girls reported experiencing “persistent feelings of sadness or hopelessness in the past year.” That’s up from 36 percent in 2011. And it’s nearly twice as high as the 29 percent of males who reported having those feelings.

The survey was done during the pandemic, which stressed out even adults. But reports of self-harm and suicidal thoughts among teens had risen years before then. And Women’s History Month is an appropriate time to focus on how girls are faring.

The mental health of boys has always attracted attention because their depression, bullying and hopelessness often fuel school shootings and other violence. Girls, it seems, increasingly turn violence upon themselves.

U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

“America’s teen girls are engulfed in a growing wave of sadness, violence and trauma,” the CDC said. The survey also found:

  • Nearly 1 in 3 seriously considered suicide — up nearly 60 percent from a decade ago. And 13 percent attempted suicide one or more times in 2021.
  • One in 5 (18 percent) experienced sexual violence in the past year — up 20 percent since 2017, when CDC started monitoring this measure.
  • More than 1 in 10 (14 percent) had ever been forced to have sex — up 27 percent since 2019, when the CDC began monitoring this.

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Vanessa Gallman

Experienced journalist, educator and retired opinion-page editor with occasional musings