April 1, 2022 -- Many American teenagers reported mental health problems during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a CDC survey.

Among the key findings in the survey of high school students:

  • 37% of the responding teens said they had poor mental health during the pandemic.
  • 44% said they felt “persistently” sad or hopeless.
  • 55% said an adult in their home was emotionally abusive.
  • 11% said an adult in the home was physically abusive.
  • 20% said they considered suicide.
  • Lesbian, gay, and bisexual teens reported higher levels of poor mental health.

“These data echo a cry for help,” CDC Acting Principal Deputy Director Debra Houry, MD, said in a news release. “The COVID-19 pandemic has created traumatic stressors that have the potential to further erode students’ mental wellbeing. Our research shows that surrounding youth with the proper support can reverse these trends and help our youth now and in the future.”

The CDC questioned 7,705 teenagers across the nation in the first 6 months of 2021, during their first full school year amid the pandemic, for the Adolescent Behaviors and Experiences Survey.

Teens who had a sense of connection to adults at home or other youths at school reported lower levels of poor mental health, the CDC said. While health and public officials debated whether schools should remain open during the pandemic, the CDC said schools “are crucial partners in supporting the health and wellbeing of students.”

“School connectedness is a key to addressing youth adversities at all times – especially during times of severe disruptions,” Kathleen A. Ethier, PhD, director of the CDC’s Division of Adolescent and School Health, said in the release. “Students need our support now more than ever, whether by making sure that their schools are inclusive and safe or by providing opportunities to engage in their communities and be mentored by supportive adults.”

Previous surveys on teen mental health showed an increase in problems even before the pandemic hit. The percentage of teenagers saying they had persistent feelings of sadness or hopelessness rose from 26% in 2009 to 37% in 2019. The new survey had 44% saying they felt that way in 2021.

One in 5 High School Students Don’t Identify as Heterosexual, CDC says

About 22.5% of high school students questioned about their sexual orientation in the Adolescent Behaviors and Experiences Survey didn’t identify as heterosexual.

The CDC said 77.5% of respondents identified as heterosexual; 13.2% as gay, lesbian, or bisexual; and 9.3% as other or questioning.

Biden Marks Transgender Visibility Day With New Policies

New training for educators to help transgender and nonbinary students overcome challenges was among the initiatives the Biden Administration announced Thursday for Transgender Day of Visibility.

Among the other policy changes, U.S. citizens will be able to put “X” for their gender classification on passport applications, and the Transportation Security Administration will update body scanners to reduce pat-downs for airline travelers.

“To everyone celebrating Transgender Day of Visibility, I want you to know that your president sees you,” Biden said in a recorded message, according to The Washington Post. “Our entire administration sees you for who you are – made in the image of God deserving of dignity, respect, and support.”

Show Sources

CDC: “Mental Health, Suicidality, and Connectedness Among High School Students During the COVID-19 Pandemic – Adolescent Behaviors and Experiences Survey, United States, January-June 2021,” “New CDC data illuminate youth mental health threats during the COVID-19 pandemic,” “Mental Health Among Adolescents,” “Overview and Methodology of the Adolescent Behaviors and Experiences Survey – United States, January-June 2021.”

The White House. “Fact Sheet: Biden-⁠Harris Administration Advances Equality and Visibility for Transgender Americans.”

The Washington Post. “Biden marks transgender visibility day with new policies, GOP criticism.”

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