In mid-February, the United States’ Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released a report that detailed “an unprecedented level of hopelessness and suicidal thoughts among America’s young women.” The report is based on a 2021 behavior survey of over 17,000 U.S. high school students that showed starting trends:
- 3 in 5 teenaged girls – that’s 57% – feel persistently sad or hopeless.
- 1 in 3 teenaged girls – 30% – have seriously considered suicide.
- 2 in 5 teenagers (boys and girls) – 40% felt so sad or hopeless that they were unable to engage in regular activities, including schoolwork or sports, for at least two weeks.
Researchers analyzed the data across demographic categories such as sex, race and ethnicities, and sexual identity. Their findings (shown in the image below) detail that these feelings are more likely to affect females and/or those identifying as LGBQ and/or those who had same-sex partners. Additionally, the survey found that 1 in 5 LGBQ students had attempted suicide in the past year, and that females were twice as likely as males to consider attempting suicide.
The worst part? It’s not just data.
We have dozens – perhaps hundreds – of stories that bring this data into stark reality. NBC detailed the story of 14-year-old Adriana Kuch, who was attacked while walking down her high school hallway in New Jersey. The attack was recorded and posted online in an attempt to make fun of her; Kuch died by suicide just days later.
The story is similar to Mallory Grossman. Bullied for over a year at school, Mallory’s picture was filtered on Snapchat and posted online with comments stating she had no friends and should kill herself. Mallory died by suicide at the age of 12.
It’s also about more than the girls who have died – it’s about the girls living through this mental health crisis. In a recently released interview by NBC News, eight girls spoke up about their feelings and report.
“Some adults are really open to those kinds of conversations, but most adults sort of make you feel like you’re just another teenager complaining about insignificant issues when ‘there are more important things to worry about. It’s just frustrating how we are rarely ever taken seriously when it comes to issues that we care about.”Marwa Sahak, aged 16
“There are different ways to be a teen girl, and all of these different ways come with these intersectional identities that should all be treated with respect,” Metzger said. “A trans teen girl shouldn’t be treated differently or worse than a cis girl. A Black teen girl shouldn’t be treated differently or worse than a white girl.”Jacquline Metzger, aged 17
So What Can We Do?
There is no one answer. What we need goes beyond legislation – it takes a societal shift, one that starts at home. Here are some actions and resources you can take to begin your journey to foster spaces that allow girls’ to ask for and receive help:
- Normalize conversations about mental health, acknowledging your own struggles, times you’ve reached out for help, and ways that you’ve handled situations in the past. Ask teenagers to identify whom they would call if they felt overwhelmed and distractions that could help them get through tough times.
- Approach local schools about mental health programs being taught or that could be implemented, and what resources are needed to help the school implement those. Look for ways the local PTA or other mental health clinics could brainstorm getting these programs underway and funded.
- Learn the common warning signs and symptoms of mental illness and general tips for helping others.
If you or someone you know may be struggling with suicidal thoughts, you can call or text the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 988 at anytime.