A recent study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that by 2021, 57% of high school girls reported experiencing “persistent feelings of sadness or hopelessness in the past year,” up from 36% in 2011.
It is a well-established fact that the mental health of children and adolescents is affected during the pandemic. However, new research suggests that teenage girls in particular are suffering like never before.
In the year A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study published in early February 2023 found that in 2021, 57 percent of high school girls reported experiencing “persistent feelings of sadness or hopelessness in the past year,” up from 36 percent in 2011. That’s more than double the 29% of men who said they felt this way in 2021.
Even worse, 30% of the girls surveyed said they were seriously considering suicide and 13% had attempted suicide one or more times in 2021. This is beyond shocking. what a shame.
We are a research group that studies children and their social and emotional development, and during the pandemic we are particularly focused on mental health in children and adolescents. Since 2020, we’ve seen more changes in women, in general, including increased depression and suicidal thoughts.
In our view, several key factors have converged to create this mental health crisis in teenage girls.
The stress that teenagers face is unique and significant.
A perfect storm of reasons
Previous CDC research has shown that the Covid-19 pandemic is disproportionately affecting girls. In the year In a 2021 study conducted by our team with 240 teenagers, 70% of girls said they “missed people a lot” during the pandemic, compared to only 28% of boys who reported this feeling.
The second reason is that social media can be a wonderful source of support, but it can sometimes be detrimental to women’s self-confidence and psychological well-being.
Finally, we think that all young people are struggling with issues like climate change and social upheaval. For many boys and girls, these are not just summaries: they are their futures. Children and teenagers are often indifferent or unaware of political realities.
So how can parents, teachers and friends help girls with this problem?
Here are six strategies that research shows.
• More emphasis on social support
The social and emotional connection between people can be one of the most powerful tools we have for dealing with significant stress and grief. Studies have found a strong link between lack of parental and peer support and depression during adolescence. Peer support may moderate the association between high adolescent anxiety and suicidal ideation. In one study of teenagers, social support was associated with greater resilience—for example, being able to cope better with certain social injustices, such as bullying.
• Support each other instead of competing
In the year In the 1970s and 1980s, competition between women was seen as something that held women back. Unfortunately, this message seems to have been lost in the tsunami of media coverage about body, appearance and social success. Research shows that social media encourages competition among girls, especially around physical appearance.
Teaching girls at a young age to be cheerleaders for each other — and to model that behavior as adults — can help ease the sense of competition that teenagers face today.
• Showing achievements
Thinking about your appearance is natural and understandable. But overemphasis on what they look like is unhealthy and is especially linked to depression and anxiety in women.
Adults can play a key role in encouraging girls to recognize other qualities, such as their artistic abilities or intelligence. Childhood can be a canvas for children to discover where their talents lie, which can be a source of great satisfaction in life.
One way adults can help them is by honoring and respecting these qualities. For example, at the Massachusetts Aggression Reduction Center, a bullying and cyberbullying prevention organization that we run and run, staff posts a woman’s accomplishments — academic, artistic, scientific, athletic, or literary — every Friday on social media channels. Using the hashtag #FridayForWomen.
• Empowering women.
Girls look to older women as role models for how to behave and what to do. You may not be the CEO of a huge corporation, but maybe you’re a great teacher, or you run a small business that offers a valuable product or service. Embracing a feminist mindset means valuing all the roles people play in society.
In addition, teaching the history behind the women’s movement and other important steps, such as women’s right to vote, is key to empowering girls to value themselves and their roles. During World War II, women played a central role in the war. Women led social movements and fought for civil rights. And women are famous scientists, writers, artists and professionals in every profession you can name.
• Looking at social media honestly
Social media represents a unique form of human interaction that has taken on a significant role in the lives of teenagers. This is especially true for teenage girls, for whom every social media interaction can have consequences and risks.
Interacting with peers on social media platforms in a fun and positive way can be a positive and positive experience. On the other hand, seeing what others post and comparing it to your own can make people of any age worry about how they are perceived and whether they are being socially included or excluded. This stress applies to both boys and girls, but the likelihood of emotional disturbance seems to be higher for girls.
Knowing that social media has the potential to affect your mood and mental health seems to help people keep some distance from their interactions on social media. Adults can help women by discussing with them how social networking sites affect their emotions, self-concept, and body image.
• Teaching children to know their feelings
Learning to identify and label emotions doesn’t come automatically for most people. The good news is that children can learn ways to help themselves when they are experiencing anxiety or depression. Children can appreciate how cuddling their dog, playing a board game, or talking to their parent(s) can reduce stress once they understand the feeling.
We think it’s worth noting that everything discussed here can also be useful for boys who don’t suffer from mental health problems in any way. Encouraging recognition of success, understanding how social media affects emotions, and increasing support for boys and girls are positive steps as we move toward a post-pandemic world.
This article is reprinted under a Creative Commons license from The Conversation, an independent, nonprofit source of news, analysis, and opinion.