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Health Matters: CDC survey shows exacerbated mental health concerns in US high school students

The issues don’t just disappear, even as the world works to return to pre-pandemic status.

HOUSTON — A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention survey released in March shows mental health concerns among high school students in the U.S. were exacerbated during the COVID-19 pandemic.

And as Dr. Leslie Taylor, a psychologist with UT Physicians, points out – those issues don’t just disappear, even as the world works to return to pre-pandemic status.

“Prior to the pandemic and the decade prior, we were seeing increased suicidal ideation among youth, alarming rates,” Taylor said. “And we continued to see increased severity over the pandemic, particularly in adolescent girls.”

The survey revealed more than a third of high school students in the U.S. experienced poor mental health, at least most of the time, during the COVID-19 pandemic.

  • 44% of students felt persistent sadness or hopelessness
  • 20% of teens seriously considered suicide
  • 10% of students had attempted suicide

Taylor said it wasn’t just fears over COVID, but the increased cases of abuse and domestic violence during pandemic restrictions, that contributed to a rise in mental health issues among teens.

She wants teens to be reassured that feelings of sadness and anxiety are normal and fleeting.

But a person should seek professional help if their eating or sleeping habits change, they no longer enjoy activities they used to, they have feelings of hopelessness or they feel disproportionate rage, anger, or resentment.

And she said there is another way for parents to offer support.

“In Texas, one of our biggest concerns is that we know that people may have things at home that can be used to harm themselves with – it could be a gun, it could be a knife or even pills,” Taylor said. “If parents are aware, they should restrict access to those items, since it’s a huge way to keep kids safe.”

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