As youth across the nation embark on a new school year, it is often accompanied by a mix of emotions. These emotions may encompass excitement, nervousness, anxiety, fear, and even dread. The emotional spectrum tied to returning to school can differ significantly based on life experiences, personality, school culture, and age. It’s important for the adults in adolescents’ lives to establish environments where young individuals can openly communicate their thoughts and feelings. This support is crucial in helping them navigate this transitional phase in their lives.
Over the last several years, mental health concerns among youth have become increasingly recognized and addressed due to their profound impact on well-being and development. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the number of adolescents reporting poor mental health is on the rise. The CDC’s Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance Data Summary & Trends Report: 2011-2021 highlights alarming trends about the mental health of U.S. high school students. For example, in 2021 more than 4 in 10 (42%) students felt persistently sad or hopeless and nearly one-third (29%) experienced poor mental health. In addition, more than 1 in 5 (22%) students seriously considered attempting suicide and 1 in 10 (10%) attempted suicide.
Suicide significantly contributes to the mortality rate of adolescents in the United States, as depression continues to affect millions of young individuals across the nation. It ranks as the second leading cause of death among people aged 10 to 24 in the country. Suicide rates within this demographic have surged by more than 57% between 2007 and 2018.
In Dr. Thomas Insel’s new book, Healing: Our Path from Mental Illness to Mental Health, he writes that “mental health has become a measure of the soul of our nation.” The Psychiatric Times noted, “If this is true, then our country’s soul is in a decidedly bad place. Healing suggests a path toward a better one.” Currently, the leading causes of death among adolescents are accidents, homicide and suicide. As youth continue to die by the hand of another or their own, the mental well-being of our youth needs to be addressed.
Emotions have been found to play a significant role in the complex landscape of youth suicide, influencing the development, escalation, and prevention of suicidal thoughts and behaviors. Understanding the intricate connection between emotions and youth suicide is essential for mental health providers to effectively address this critical issue and provide appropriate support to young individuals in need. To date, researchers have found emotions to play a role in suicide in the following ways: