The teen girl mental health epidemic
Teenage years are often celebrated as a time of immense growth, self-discovery, and happiness. This phase of life is marked by a sense of youthful exuberance, boundless curiosity, and a world of possibilities. Adolescents experience moments of joy and elation as they forge new friendships, explore their interests, and embark on adventures. It's a time when they begin to shape their identities, dream big, and feel a sense of independence. The teenage years are accompanied by milestones like first loves, high school graduation, and other exciting achievements that contribute to a feeling of accomplishment. The freedom to dream, make mistakes, and learn from them makes these years memorable, instilling a sense of optimism and excitement for the future.
In recent years, however, the bliss of adolescence has given way to a much more somber new reality. That of struggles with mental health issues.
According to CDC data published in February of 2023, nearly 3 in 5 (57%) U.S. teen girls felt persistently sad — double that of boys, representing a nearly 60% increase and the highest level reported over the past decade. Of those, 30% said they have seriously considered committing suicide — a percentage that's risen by nearly 60% in that same time frame.
Several factors contribute to this sad phenomenon, including academic pressure, peer pressure, hormonal changes, body image and self-esteem issues. But perhaps the biggest culprit in this heartbreaking statistic is social media. The rise of social media and constant connectivity through smartphones has had a significant impact on the mental health of all teenagers, but particularly girls. The pressure to maintain a curated online image, cyberbullying, and the addictive nature of these platforms can contribute to anxiety, depression, and feelings of inadequacy.
Former Google CEO Eric Schmidt once said “The Internet is the first thing that humanity has built that humanity doesn't understand”. In other words, as the internet has grown, unforeseen consequences and challenges have emerged. Privacy concerns, cybersecurity threats, misinformation, and the impact on traditional industries are examples of challenges that were not fully anticipated when the Internet was first created. The Internet also operates in a decentralized manner, with no single authority governing its entirety. This decentralized nature adds to its complexity, making it easy for any individual with ill intentions to hide in anonymity and inflict pain without constraint. This is not only unforeseen but also something we have never experienced before as a society. There’s no blueprint or manual on how to help your teen navigate these waters.
Addressing the teen girl mental health epidemic requires intentional efforts involving parents, schools, healthcare providers, and policymakers. Breaking down the stigma around mental health can be the first step. This often keeps teenage girls from seeking help or discussing their struggles openly.
Schools and communities can provide education about mental health to help reduce stigma and improve awareness. Creating supportive and nurturing environments in schools and at home can help teenagers feel more comfortable seeking help and discussing their struggles. Ensuring that teenagers have access to mental health services and professionals who can provide guidance and treatment is essential. Teaching teens healthy coping strategies and resilience skills can help them navigate the challenges they face.
Parents play a crucial role in monitoring and supporting their children's mental health. Open communication between parents and teenagers is vital. Educating them about responsible and healthy use of social media and technology can help mitigate some of the negative impacts.
It's important to note that the mental health challenges facing teen girls are not uniform, and individual experiences can vary greatly. As such, a personalized and holistic approach to addressing these challenges is essential. If you or someone you know is struggling with mental health issues, it's always good to seek professional help and support, but do not underestimate the value of your own support to those you care about. Details matter.
FOOD FOR THOUGHT
If you or anyone you know is struggling with thoughts of suicide, please know that help is always available. https://988lifeline.org/ is a Suicide & Crisis Lifeline available 24/7. Just dial 988 from your phone.
An accomplished translator and writer, Cami has been in the creative field for nearly two decades. Her experience as a linguist in several fields, paired with her background as a native Latina immigrant (born and raised in Brazil and naturalized American citizen) gives her a unique perspective on the social and cultural context of our society. She has been with Techless since 2022 and currently lives in Michigan with her husband of twelve years, their eight-year-old son, and their puppy Oreo.