Mental Health Crisis is affecting 50% of Americans in all age brackets with highest change seen in youth


Important Takeaways:

  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) monitors’ mental health and substance abuse through the Youth Mental Health Survey, a poll of high school students collected as questionnaires every two years since 2011. The most recent data, from 2021, was stunning: 42% “experienced persistent feelings of sadness or hopelessness,” up from 28% in 2011. And 22% “seriously considered attempting suicide,” up from 16% in 2011. While the 2021 data might reflect some of the most difficult months of the pandemic, the trends were apparent before 2021.
  • Historically, youth have had low rates of suicide mortality, but that began changing about a decade ago. Today, youth and young adults (ages 10-24) account for 15% of all suicides, an increase of 52.2% since 2000. Suicide has become the second-leading cause of death for this age group, accounting for 7,126 deaths. The highest rates are found among non-Hispanic American Indian or Alaska Native youth, with a suicide rate three times greater than the general population. Youth who identified as sexual minorities (LGBTQ+) had a fivefold higher rate of attempting suicide.
  • Substance use disorder
  • Addiction is not a new problem in America, but it has become a crisis largely because of its new lethality. The advent of powerful opiates, especially fentanyl, has driven mortality rates to unprecedented levels. The CDC reported 105,452 drug overdose deaths for 2022, more than a fivefold increase from 2002 and double the number from 2015. The highest death rates are in males ages 35-44. For context, there were roughly 43,000 auto fatalities in 2022. Lung and bronchial cancers, which cause the most deaths of any form of cancer, accounted for 127,070 deaths in 2022, mostly people over age 50.
  • The crisis is indeed personal, not political. There are, in fact, only two kinds of families in America: families struggling with a mental illness and those not struggling with a mental illness yet. The prevalence is that high—50% of us will be affected at some point.
  • Anxiety and depression have become a new public health threat for Americans of all ages, but we have the tools to resolve this crisis through better engagement, quality care, and a focus on people and recovery

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