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CDC report: Teen girls experience more sadness, sexual violence

The new 2021 Youth Risk Behavior Survey is the first since before the pandemic and shows startling trends among more than 17,000 U.S. high schoolers.

ST. LOUIS PARK, Minn. — A new report out from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) finds the mental health crisis is growing at record levels. And it's especially impacting teenage girls.

The results are from the 2021 Youth Risk Behavior Survey that includes responses from more than 17,000 U.S. high school students.

One of the most startling statistics from the survey found that 57% of teen girls said they felt "persistently hopeless" — the highest rate in a decade. 

And 30% said they seriously considered dying by suicide — a percentage that has gone up 60% in 10 years.

The survey is conducted every other year for three decades and it mimics the latest results from TreeHouse, an organization creating safe spaces for teenagers at more than 40 sites across the country, including one in St. Louis Park.

"I think often people don't really need you to fix their problems, they need you sit in it with them for a little bit and that's kind of what TreeHouse gets to do," said TreeHouse Senior Coach Mandy Betlach, who is also 16-year-old Beulah's mentor. 

"She's just so sweet, she's so down to earth," said Beulah about Betlach. "I love you for you."

TreeHouse also offers support groups that helps serve 3,000 teens every year. In its fall of 2022 survey results, TreeHouse found 49% are experiencing serious bouts of hopelessness. 

"A lot of people shut out their feelings because there's not a lot of support," said Beulah. "It's OK to let it go sometimes."

Hopelessness can look like bullying, self-harm or isolation. In fact, the CDC report finds more than 40% of teens said they were unable to do their regular activities like sports or schoolwork for weeks at a time.

Betlach says there are other red flags to look out for like changes in eating or sleeping habits. She also says teens should have the tools to handle a crisis before it begins and tries to help them build strong relationships along the way. 

"I think we all have to own a piece of it, but we all don't have to own a big piece of it," Betlach. "Hope is abounding, it's out there, but sometimes we have to slow down to find it."

There are several ways to get involved at TreeHouse from tutoring to serving meals. And if you're a teen, you can also simply show up to their programs. For more information, click here

If you or someone you know is facing a mental health crisis, there is help available from the following resources:

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