Research News in Youth Mental Health - May 2024

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Research News in Youth Mental Health - May 2024

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OCMH Senior Research Analyst Amy Marsman spotlights recent articles, resources, and research findings impacting youth mental health.

Most teachers say mental health screening more important than metal detectors in preventing school shootings (story link)

Last year marked a new high for school shootings in America: Nearly 1 in 4 teachers went into lockdown. According to a survey by the Pew Research Center, 70% of educators believe the best way to prevent future gun violence is by focusing on mental health.

Above all else, most teachers reported wanting to see schools improve mental health screening and treatment for both students and adults. Sixty-nine percent of teachers — including 66% of conservatives and 73% of liberals — said addressing mental health is an effective way of preventing school shootings.


LGBTQ Youth Face Isolation and Mental Health Challenges

The latest impact report from Give Us the Floor show that LGBTQ youth are struggling with mental health. Research participants reported very high levels of mental distress: 87% anxiety; 85% body image; 79% depression; 72% isolation; 71% sleep problems; 65% suicidal thoughts; 60% self-harm; 42% reported an eating disorder.


Mental Health and Access to Care for LGBTQ+ Girls and Young Women

Research consistently shows that LGBTQ+ young people report higher rates of mental health concerns in comparison to their non-LGBTQ+ peers. Of note, much of this research does not specifically focus on the experiences of LGBTQ+ girls and young women. This brief explores the demographics, mental health, and mental health care-related needs of 8,298 LGBTQ+ girls and young women, ages 13 to 24, using data from The Trevor Project’s 2023 U.S. National Survey on the Mental Health of LGBTQ Young People.


Reducing the Impact of Eating Disorders on Adolescent Girls

Information released by ASTHO digs into the impact of eating disorders, which disproportionately affect girls. Eating disorders are among the deadliest mental illnesses, second only to opioid misuse, and co-occur often with anxiety, depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder, substance use, and post-traumatic stress disorder. Nearly all eating disorders are experienced by young people, under the age of 26.

Adolescents experienced a 107.4% increase in eating disorder diagnoses from 2018 to 2022, which was exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. The majority of parents reported their adolescents’ social media usage increased during COVID-19’s peak. Adolescent’s exposure to weight-stigmatizing content on social media also increased during this time and is correlated with increased rates of body dissatisfaction. Social media usage can negatively influence body image and lead to body comparison, body dissatisfaction, and disordered eating—all contributors to eating disorder development. Reports indicate that adolescent girls use social media more than adolescent boys and are disproportionately affected by eating disorders. Further, according to a recent CDC study, pediatric emergency department visits among adolescent girls with eating disorders doubled during COVID-19.

Recommendations to address this problem are provided by ASTHO along with highlights of recent state policy actions.


Menominee Nation of Wisconsin sues TikTok, other social media over teen suicide rate (story link)

The Menominee Nation of Wisconsin filed a lawsuit against TikTok, Meta, YouTube and social media companies, alleging that social media addiction contributes to a high Native American teen suicide rate.

Nationally, the suicide rate for Native American teens is 3.5 times higher than the national average, according to the Center for Native American Youth. And Native American teen girls are five times more likely to die by suicide than white teen girls, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

“Enough is enough,” Menominee Chairwoman Gena Kakkak said in a statement. “Endless scrolling is rewiring our teenagers’ brains. We are demanding these social media corporations take responsibility for intentionally creating dangerous features that ramp up the compulsive use of social media by the youth on our reservation.”


American Psychiatric Association (APA) releases data on social media and parental oversight

APA commissioned a poll among 2,204 American adults, and found that among parents, 82% have taken measures to limit or manage their children’s technology use. Specifically:

  • 42% have limited their screentime.
  • 39% have taken away their phone, tablet, computer, or other mobile device.
  • 38% have used parental control systems or security features.
  • 35% limited the amount of time they can spend on social media.
  • 29% have monitored their children’s social media accounts.
  • 27% of parents restricted their children from using certain social media platforms.
  • 15% have deleted their children’s social media accounts.

Nearly one in five parents (18%) have never limited or managed their child’s technology use. Parents are nearly twice as likely as those who are not parents to say social media does more good than harm for their own mental health.


Study looks at teens who deny suicidal thoughts, but later die by suicide (story link)

About 1 in 3 teens with depression who self-harm or die by suicide denied having such thoughts when completing a commonly used mental health screening questionnaire in the preceding days or weeks, a new analysis suggests. The study, published in JAMA Psychiatry, looked at 13-to-17-year-olds with depression diagnoses who answered Question 9 of the Personal Health Questionnaire (PHQ), which is used to screen for depression severity, before intentionally harming or killing themselves between 2009 and 2017. Those with a history of inpatient mental health treatment were twice as likely to deny such thoughts as those with no history of mental health hospitalization. Adolescents with a history of mental health hospitalization may be reluctant because they fear re-hospitalization, the researchers note, or are afraid that caregivers will overreact. 


College Athlete Suicides Doubled In Past 20 Years, Researchers Warn (story link)

Amid mounting concern over the mental health and wellbeing of elite athletes and young adults, researchers found the number of college athletes dying by suicide doubled in past 20 years, and became the second most common cause of death among athletes after accidents. The average age at time of death was 20 years old. The research, published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, potentially underestimates the incidence of suicide among college athletes. 

This increase in suicide deaths contrasted sharply with the falling death rates among college athletes from other causes like accidents, murder, medical reasons, and unintentional alcohol and drug overdose.

The researchers said “pressures of school, internal and external performance expectations, time demands, injury, athletic identity, and physical fatigue” can all contribute to issues like depression, mental health problems, and suicide. There may also be additional stressors for college athletes like harassment and abuse within the sport such as hazing, psychological, physical, and sexual abuse, and cyberbullying from the public, other athletes, and coaches. The researchers noted social media and the recent emergence of name and likeness deals in the NCAA as factors that could compound these issues for some athletes and increase the pressures faced. Awareness and training among staff dealing with athletes could help address the growing issue, the researchers said, as could screening to identify at-risk athletes and providing access to health providers trained in sports psychology.


Black Adolescent Suicide Rate Reveals Urgent Need to Address Mental Health Care Barriers

New federal data shows that the suicide rate among Black youth ages 10 to 19 surpassed that of their White peers for the first time in 2022, increasing 54% since 2018, compared to a 17% decrease for White youth. In fact, the suicide rate among Black adolescents is increasing faster than other racial and ethnic groups. From 2007 to 2020, the suicide rate rose 144% among 10- to 17-year-olds who are Black. Although the overall youth suicide rate is trending downwards, this data raises alarms about the need to improve and address mental health care for Black communities.

Researchers studying suicide haven’t included enough Black people, but one study points the finger at a familiar cause for a rising rate among Black youths: racism. Pew Trusts calls for cultural competency in health care, expanded use of screening tools, and more research on risk factors to help address increase among this demographic group.


Suicide is an urgent and growing public health crisis

In the United States, someone dies by suicide about every 10 minutes. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services released the 2024 National Strategy for Suicide Prevention. This is a new 10-year whole-of-government approach that provides concrete recommendations for addressing gaps in the suicide prevention field. This coordinated and comprehensive approach to suicide prevention at the national, state, tribal, local, and territorial levels relies upon critical partnerships across the public and private sectors. People with lived experience are critical to the success of this work. 

The National Strategy seeks to prevent suicide risk in the first place; identify and support people with increased risk through treatment and crisis intervention; prevent reattempts; promote long-term recovery; and support survivors of suicide loss. 


National Report: State-by-State Disparities Widening in Preschool Access, Quality, Funding

Despite strides in preschool enrollment across the country, access to quality early education remains inequitable and heavily skewed by geography, according to a new National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER) analysis. State-by-state disparities in preschool access, quality, and funding are widening each year. Research shows that children who attend high-quality preschool are better prepared socially, emotionally, and academically when they enter kindergarten. NIEER released its 2023 State of Preschool Yearbook, which shows Wisconsin meets 2 of 10 quality benchmarks. Among the benchmarks not met are staff to child ratios, maximum class size, and teacher training requirements.


Well Badger Annual Report Released

Part of the Well Badger Resource Center, the Children's Mental & Behavioral Health Resource Navigator is a free, online, anonymous tool that helps people navigate resources for children and youth (ages 0-21) with mental or behavioral health concerns. In Well Badger’s 2023 Annual Report, they include breakdown of what resources were sought:

  • 55% (n=368) were seeking evaluation/assessment resources
  • 76% (n=510) were seeking mental health treatment services
  • 76% (n=510) were seeking mental health support services

More information about Well Badger is available from the Wisconsin Department of Health Services.


Medical care for youth with neurodevelopmental disabilities: A call for change

According to national data, one in six children has a neurodevelopmental disability (NDD) such as autism, intellectual disability, or ADHD. Their medical care is often inadequate, sometimes leaving conditions untreated and neglecting preventive care — with poorer outcomes as the result.

Carol Weitzman, MD, co-director of the Autism Spectrum Center at Boston Children’s Hospital, led the development of Supporting Access for Everyone (SAFE) — a first-of-its-kind consensus statement calling for system-wide change. Compiled by a diverse group of healthcare experts from around the country, it was published April 10 in the journal Pediatrics and summarized here.


Data Brief: ADHD in Children

CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics released a new data brief covering attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), one of the most common mental disorders of childhood. This report describes the percentage of children and adolescents ages 5–17 years who had ever been diagnosed with ADHD from the 2020–2022 National Health Interview Survey and variations by ethnic and economic groups.


Data Brief: Chronic School Absenteeism for Health-related Reasons

CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics released a new data brief. Chronic school absenteeism is linked with poorer academic performance and school engagement, increases the risk of dropping out, which is associated with many long-term health impacts. (See related article on school absences and mental health). This report uses data from the 2022 National Health Interview Survey to describe the percentage of children ages 5‒17 who experienced chronic school absenteeism due to illness, injury, or disability by sociodemographic and health factors.


A New Generation of Researchers: Hearing from Youth Leaders on Their Well-Being (story link)

Part of the Youth and Young Adult Well-Being project, youth members representing different cultural affinity groups, advocated not only for youth involvement in research and implementation phases but also in the planning stages, making youth engaged and involved in every stage of the youth-led participatory action research project. They provide guidance, make informed decisions, and actively contribute to the planning, co-design, and facilitation processes, aligning with the project’s evolving needs and capacity.


Morgan Stanley pledges $20 million for children's mental health initiative (story link)

Morgan Stanley pledged $20 million over five years to its children's mental health initiative, bringing its commitment to $50 million since it began in 2020. The Morgan Stanley Alliance for Children’s Mental Health funds nonprofit groups that carry out research and programs focused on youth mental health. As part of the new pledge, the bank will finance an education center run by the American Academy of Pediatrics, and Sesame Workshop, the nonprofit behind Sesame Street, focused on children in marginalized U.S. communities.


World Happiness Report

The 2024 World Happiness Report was released, revealing some striking findings for youth mental health, especially those in North America, as discussed by the study’s lead author in this podcast episode, How to Make America's Young People Happier Again. The Child and Adolescent Well-Being chapter is the first across the 10+ years of the World Happiness Report that explores child and adolescent well-being in detail. Study authors examined data from four well-established international datasets with respondents aged 10-24. They present the global state of child and adolescent well-being, with a focus on levels, trends, inequalities, and correlates. An important aspect of this chapter is a discussion of the shortcomings of the available international data and what action should be taken to improve data quantity and quality, and thereby improve our understanding of child and adolescent well-being and how to improve it worldwide. World Happiness Report video summaries are also available.



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