The Mental Health Crisis Among Teen Girls: What Parents and Caregivers Need to Know
Posted by Improving Lives Counseling Services, Inc. | Uncategorized
Every time you turn on the news, pick up a paper or magazine, or login on to a computer, you see an article referencing teen girl’s mental health. “American Teen Girls Are in Crisis,” or “The Crisis In American Girlhood.” The Washington Post on February 17, 2023, wrote: “Stark findings on the pervasive sadness, suicidal thoughts and sexual violence endured by teen girls have jolted parents and the wider public.” Federal researchers reported, “nearly 1 in 3 high school girls said they had considered suicide, a 60 percent rise in the past decade. Nearly 14 percent had been forced to have sex. About 6 in 10 girls were so persistently sad or hopeless they stopped regular activities.” Improving Lives Counseling Services’ team of counselors, therapists, and clinicians treat adolescent and teen girls in-person and online for stress, anxiety, depression, suicidality, promiscuity, and behavior disorders.
WHAT, WHEN, WHERE, and WHY
From birth, girls are sociable and friendly, showing empathy and compassion as young as 4 or 5, smiling at people from the seat attached to grocery carts, talking to strangers in department stores, and making friends with kids on the playground. They make lifelong friends in childcare centers, and as young women stay connected to their best friend from kindergarten – until recently. The past decade (or two) with all its technological advances has greatly affected the lives of adolescent and teen girls. It’s safe to say next to industrial advances, technology has had its greatest effect on our female population. Girls and women of all ages can press one button and learn everything that’s good about them, and everything that needs changing. With the pressing of two buttons they can learn everything everyone worldwide thinks of who they are, how they look, where they work or go to school, the clothes they wear, the work they do, their facial features, their weight, how they wear their hair, and more.
What happened? Computers, cell phones, tablets, and apps (applications). When did it happen? It began two to three decades ago. Why did it happen? Because “due to their brain’s wiring, women report higher levels of empathy and emotional understanding than men.” Because instead of gawking at a picture in a magazine or admiring a model or actress in a movie or on tv, they could press a button in the privacy of their own bedroom and not only see and desire, they could make inquiries, ask questions, and get answers – some reliable, some not as much.
PRINCESS PHONES HAVE CHANGED
The cute little pink phone mom could listen in on and dad would hang up when he caught it under the covers is gone. Mobile devices can be put on dark, and with headphones parents have no way of knowing she’s up all night. And although the internet offers a wide range of educational and health information, it allows adolescent and teen girls to communicate with strangers worldwide. Though parental controls have been put in place, recent statistics show only 50% of parents of adolescents and young teens look at their teens phone calls and messages. This number drops to 47% of 15-18 year olds. A 2023 study reported only 48 percent of parents placed limits on computer and phone time, and this number is continually decreasing. Yes, teen girls have more technical knowledge and parental controls don’t always work, however, parents who repeatedly go back and check have more success at protecting their teen.
Are adolescent and teen girls experiencing higher rates of mental illness, or do we now have the tools in place to better track mental health in children? Many in the psychiatric community believe the answer is better tracking.
In the past, teen girls went to the women in their lives with questions on health and relationships. They gathered with girlfriends in decorated bedrooms to talk about clothes and makeup. Trips to the mall and matinee movies were popular, and school dances held in school gyms were where everyone wanted to be. Today, a teen girl can avoid friends and social gatherings, and no one notices. She may stay in her room all day and though parents beg her to come out, they give up after hours of confrontational pushback. Many parents say, “if she’s home she’s safer than being out in the streets,” not understanding the mental damage isolation can cause – especially if she is depending on the internet to meet emotional and social needs.
Cell phones (the internet) give teen girls a wide range of information on subjects they might not realize their interest in. More than friends and family on social media sites, they have access to news – local, national, and worldwide. Politics, climate change, discrimination, homelessness, poverty, financial collapse, religion, sex, global warming, gun violence, hate crimes, wars, and world disasters can popup when logging in. They have access to film and documentaries parents would feel they’re not ready for: books, newspapers, magazines, podcasts, and blogs meant solely for adults. Like many adults young and old, the age of information availability affects the brain. A study on the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center website reports, “excess internet use has been associated with a higher risk for depression and anxiety and can make us feel isolated and/or overwhelmed. “Overwhelmed,” is the word used most by adolescent and teen girls. When they don’t know which way to turn, or parental guidance conflicts with what everyone online is saying, the brain’s cortisol levels release, anger builds, blood rushes to the brain, and the decision fails to be the one she knows is best.
Hormonal changes, higher levels of empathy and compassion, excessive internet use, wanting to be liked and accepted, the global information highway, and knowing and understanding things relegated to adults contribute to worsening depression in teen girls. In recent reports, adolescent and teen girls report social media, changes in social norms, political and social divisiveness, homelessness, poverty, weakening communities, school shootings, and fear of the future make them feel angry, sad, and depressed.
Improving Lives Counseling Services offers a wide range of services and programs for teen girls online and in-person, including check-ups, screenings, and treatment plans, in individual, couples, family, and group sessions. Click here or call us at 918-960-7852