As of 2017, statistics show that an alarming number of them are suffering from depression and dying by suicide. In fact, suicide is now the second leading cause of death among young people, surpassed only by accidents.
After declining for nearly two decades, the suicide rate among Americans ages 10 to 24 jumped 56 percent between 2007 and 2017, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And for the first time the gender gap in suicide has narrowed: Though the numbers of suicides are greater in males, the rates of suicide for female youths increased by 12.7 percent each year, compared with 7.1 percent for male youths.
At the same time, the rate of teen depression shot up 63 percent, an alarming but not surprising trend given the link between suicide and depression: In 2017, 13 percent of teens reported at least one episode of depression in the past year, compared with 8 percent of teens in 2007, according to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health.
How is it possible that so many of our young people are suffering from depression and killing themselves when we know perfectly well how to treat this illness? If thousands of teens were dying from a new infectious disease or a heart ailment, there would be a public outcry and a national call to action.
While young people are generally physically healthy, they are psychiatrically vulnerable. Three-quarters of all the mental illness that we see in adults has already occurred by age 25. Our collective failure to act in the face of this epidemic is all the more puzzling since we are living at a time when people are generally more accepting of mental illness and stigma is on the wane.
Every day, 16 young people die from suicide. What are we waiting for?
[If you are having thoughts of suicide, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 (TALK) or go to SpeakingOfSuicide.com/resources for a list of additional resources.]