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Devastating mental health crisis among American teens today, doubling during pandemic

June 30, 2022


The U.S. surgeon general issued a rare public advisory in December, warning of a “devastating” mental health crisis among American teens. Symptoms of depression and anxiety for children and adolescents have doubled during the COVID pandemic. Warning: This segment references suicide. For a transcript of the story, click here.

For a shorter version, stop at 4m:15s

If you or someone you know has talked about contemplating suicide, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, open 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Five Facts

  • Who is involved in the non-profit organization Youth Villages, and what do they do? 
  • Where is Youth Villages located?
  • When, as in what time period, has Youth Villages experienced the highest volume of calls?
  • What percentage of youth today report having severe depression and are not receiving mental health treatment? 
  • How many high school students report persistent feelings of sadness or hopelessness?

Focus Questions

Why do you think so many kids today are struggling with their mental health? How has the pandemic during the past two years impacted youth mental health?

Media literacy: Why do you think the story focuses solely on one girl, Jackie, in Tennessee? Did you appreciate hearing about the details of her mental health journey, or would you have preferred to hear from more people in different places? Why or why not? 

For More

1. Check out PBS NewsHour Student Reporting Labs’ podcast, “On Our Minds.” Each episode deals with a subject relating to teen mental health, featuring stories from high schoolers across the country and interviews with authors, celebrities and medical professionals.

Listen to four of their episodes by clicking these links:

  1. On Our Minds S 1 Ep 1: It’s OK not to be OK
  2. On Our Minds S 1 Ep 4: “Depression can be a scary word”
  3. On Our Minds S2 Ep #1: How do I start a conversation about mental health?
  4. On Our Minds S2 Ep #2: How social life affects teen mental health

Student activity: Let students choose an episode around a subject they’re interested in. Afterwards, have them write down:

  • 3 new things they learned about mental health
  • 3 issues they related to
  • 3 ways to deal with a mental health challenge

Share in small groups or to the larger class.

2. Learn more about youth mental health through Ken Burns’ newest film, “Hiding in Plain Sight: Youth Mental Illness.” The video below introduces the film and its importance. 


Evelyn Chi, a rising sophomore at Amherst College and intern with NewsHour Classroom, wrote today’s Daily News Lesson with editing by Vic Pasquantonio.

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