The mental health crisis among America’s youth is real – and staggering

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Between 2009 and 2017, rates of major depression among 20- to 21-year-olds more than doubled. Ana Ado/Shutterstock.com

Jean Twenge, San Diego State University

The first signs of a problem started to emerge around 2014: More young people said they felt overwhelmed and depressed. College counseling centers reported sharp increases in the number of students seeking treatment for mental health issues.

Even as studies were showing increases in symptoms of depression and in suicide among adolescents since 2010, some researchers called the concerns overblown and claimed there simply isn’t enough good data to reach that conclusion.

The idea that there’s an epidemic in anxiety or depression among youth “is simply a myth,” psychiatrist Richard Friedman wrote in The New York Times last year. Others suggested young people were simply more willing to get help when they needed it. Or perhaps counseling centers’ outreach efforts were becoming more effective.

But a new analysis of a large representative survey reinforces what I – and others – have been saying: The epidemic is all too real. In fact, the increase in mental health issues among teens and young adults is nothing short of staggering.

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