Teen mental health: CDC report reveals disturbing pandemic-related trends

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- A first of its kind survey from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on teen mental health during the COVID-19 pandemic revealed some startling trends.

The survey was conducted from January to June 2021 among U.S. high school students.

The final report released this week found that more than one third of high school students said their mental health suffered during the pandemic, with 44% reporting feeling persistently sad or hopeless during the past year.

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More than a quarter of the students surveyed also disclosed that they had a parent lose a job.

"Children's mental health is so impacted by what's going on in the family, what's going on in the community and then of course with online schools and disruptions in schools," explained Dr. Helen Egger who founded Little Otter, a digital mental health service for children.

Among the hardest hit were LGBTQ kids and Asian Americans.

Sixty-four percent of Asian American students said they experienced racism during COVID and African American students were not far behind at 55%.

CDC researchers also found that LGBTQ students reported greater levels of poor mental health, emotional abuse, and attempted suicide more than their counterparts.

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Locally, San Francisco Unified School District says that's where its LGBTQ Student Services played a huge role.

"We worked really closely with our wellness coordinators to text our students to email our students to let them know what were the different programs that we ran to allow them to be able to reach out and get the help they needed in case they were feeling alone, in case they were feeling desperate," said Kena Hazelwood, the SFUSD LGBTQ Student Services Coordinator.

So who did the best during this time? According to the CDC report, students who felt connected to adults and peers at their schools.

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The survey said those students were "significantly less likely than those who did not to report persistent feelings of sadness or hopelessness."

They were also less likely to consider suicide or to have attempted suicide.

If you or someone you love is in crisis and dealing with suicidal thoughts or mental health issues, here are some organizations that offer help and hope.

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