You can’t be a growing human without experiencing some amount of pain, discomfort and suffering. But the past few years have introduced new challenges to being a kid: Pandemic isolation, climate fears, political instability, and constant availability of tech tools designed to hijack our brain chemistry to maximize use. Just to name a few.
In 2021, the American Academy of Pediatrics, American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, and the Children’s Hospital Association banded together to declare a national emergency in adolescent mental health: “We are caring for young people with soaring rates of depression, anxiety, trauma, loneliness, and suicidality that will have lasting impacts on them, their families, and their communities,” they wrote.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, childhood diagnoses of anxiety and depression have been increasing. Nine percent of American kids have been diagnosed with anxiety; four percent have been diagnosed with depression. As children grow into their teen years, those rates get higher: More than a third of teens say that they’ve had persistent sad or hopeless feelings, and 19 percent had considered attempting suicide.1
Unfortunately, those rates increase again if young people’s identities are marginalized. 42 percent of LGBTQ2S+ youth have considered attempting suicide, for example. Rates of depression are highest among youth who identify as having more than one race.
What can you do to help?
Long-term, you can connect with and invest in a positive youth development organization, like Camp Fire, or The Trevor Project, or On Our Sleeves.
But this month, you can take action by participating in Absolutely Incredible Kid Day®. Join millions of people on Thursday, March 16, 2023 and tell a young person why they matter and what makes them amazing.
(Fun fact: it’s also Camp Fire’s 113th birthday!)
Why? Your words are powerful and can change a young person’s life. Whether you write, call, text or send a video, it can make an immediate impact. What do the young people in your life need to hear?
Visit our #KidDay page to get tips, ideas and tools.
Growing up is hard, and those statistics definitely paint a concerning picture. But we know what else makes a difference in the lives of young people: In addition to professional treatment, there are other interventions that can help foster better mental health, including:
- Developmental relationships with positive adults lead to young people with stronger social-emotional skills. They take more personal responsibility and less risks. But more than 1 in 5 middle and high school students report they don’t have any developmental relationships. Access to positive youth development programs, where young people can get support from trained adults, is limited. Almost 25 million American children don’t have access to an afterschool program, for example.
- Being in nature can boost moods, lower anxiety, and deliver a wide variety of mental health benefits. But kids spend a large portion of their days behind screens (6 hours a day for 8 to 10 year olds, 9 hours a day for 11 to 14 year olds, and 7.5 hours a day for 15 to 18 year olds3). Access to nature is often blocked for people of color and low-income communities, thanks to decades of structural racism and classism. This disparity is called The Nature Gap. 74 percent of non-white people live in nature-deprived areas, compared to only 23 percent of white people.4 70 percent of low-income communities live without easy access to green spaces.
Thanks for caring about young people with us, and connecting them to the outdoors, to others, and to themselves.
- “Data & Statistics,” CDC.gov. Accessed 13 February 2023. https://www.cdc.gov/childrensmentalhealth/data.html
- “What we’re learning about development relationships,” The Search Institute. Accessed 13 February 2023. https://www.search-institute.org/developmental-relationships/learning-developmental-relationships/
- “Screen Time VS Lean Time,” CDC.gov. Accessed 13 February 2023. https://www.cdc.gov/nccdphp/dnpao/multimedia/infographics/getmoving.html
- “The Nature Gap,” Americanprogress.org. Accessed 13 February 2023. https://www.americanprogress.org/article/the-nature-gap/