New CDC analyzes released today shed additional light on the mental health of American high school students during the COVID-19 pandemic, including the disproportionate level of threats experienced by some students.
According to new data, in 2021, more than a third (37%) of high school students reported having had poor mental health during the COVID-19 pandemic, and 44% reported constantly feeling sad or hopeless over the past year. . The new analyzes also describe some of the difficult challenges young people face during the pandemic:
- More than half (55%) reported experiencing emotional abuse from a parent or other adult in the home, including swearing, insults, or student abuse.
- 11% have experienced physical violence from a parent or other adult in the home, including hitting, beating, kicking or physically injuring a student.
- More than a quarter (29%) reported that a parent or other adult in their home had lost their job.
Prior to the pandemic, mental health was deteriorating among high school students, according to previous CDC data.pdf icon
“These figures reflect a cry for help,” said CDC Acting Deputy Director General Debra Howry, MD, MPH. “The COVID-19 pandemic has created traumatic stressors that have the potential to further undermine students’ mental well-being. Our research shows that the young people around us, with the right support, can reverse these trends and help our young people now and in the future. ”
Lesbian, gay, and bisexual youth and young women report higher levels of ill mental health; emotional abuse by a parent or caregiver; and have attempted suicide than their counterparts.
In addition, more than a third (36%) of students said they had experienced racism before or during the COVID-19 pandemic. The highest levels were reported among Asian students (64%) and black students and students of different races (both 55%). The study could not determine the extent to which events during the pandemic contributed to the reported racism. However, experiences of racism among young people are associated with poor mental health, academic performance and life-threatening health risks.
The connection with the school provided critical protection to the students during COVID-19
The findings also emphasize that a sense of care, support and belonging to a school – called ‘school connection’ – has an important effect on students during difficult breaks. Young people who feel connected to adults and peers at school are significantly less likely than those who have not to report persistent feelings of sadness or hopelessness (35% vs. 53%); that they are seriously considering suicide attempts (14% vs. 26%); or attempted suicide (6% vs. 12%). However, less than half (47%) of young people reported feeling close to people at school during the pandemic.
“Connecting with the school is the key to tackling youth difficulties at all times – especially in times of severe disability,” said Dr. Kathleen A. Etierre, director of the CDC’s Department of Youth and School Health. “Students need our support now more than ever, whether by making sure their schools are inclusive and safe, or by providing opportunities to engage in their communities and be mentored by supportive adults.
We all need to play a role in helping young people recover from the challenges of COVID-19.
Young people with poor mental health can struggle with school and grades, decision making and their health. Mental health problems in young people are also often associated with other health and behavioral risks, such as an increased risk of drug use, experiencing violence and a higher risk of sexual behavior.
Schools are a crucial partner in supporting the health and well-being of students. In addition to education, they provide opportunities for academic, social, mental and physical health services that can help protect against negative outcomes. However, schools are facing unprecedented disruption during the pandemic and cannot cope with these complex challenges on their own.
“Faced with difficulties, support from schools, families and communities protects adolescents from potentially devastating consequences,” said Jonathan Mermin, PhD, director of the National Center for HIV / AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, Sexually Transmitted Diseases and Tuberculosis Prevention. CDC Center for School Health Monitoring and Management. “It simply came to our notice then. So what will our schools and communities need to help young people withstand the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond? “
This data published as MMWR Monitoring Supplement, come from the Adolescent Behavior and Experience Survey (ABES), the first nationally representative CDC survey of students from public and private schools to assess the well-being of youth in the United States during the COVID-19 pandemic. Funded by the Coronavirus Aid, Aid and Economic Security Act (CARES), the CDC presented the study in January-June 2021.
The CDC Department of Youth and School Health on Mental Health among Students: https://www.cdc.gov/healthyyouth/mental-health/index.htm.
For more information from the National Center for HIV / AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, Sexually Transmitted Diseases and CDC Tuberculosis Prevention, visit www.cdc.gov/nchhstp/newsroom