‘Overwhelming wave of violence, trauma:’ Teen girls report record levels of sadness

Nearly three in five teenage girls say they felt persistent sadness in 2021 and one in three girls seriously considered attempting suicide, according to data collected by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

>> Read more trending news

The findings were based on surveys from the CDC that are completed by teenagers across the U.S. every two years. More than 17,200 high school students filled out the surveys.

In addition to teen girls’ levels of sadness — which was three times that admitted by teen boys — the survey showed high levels of violence, depression and suicidal thoughts among lesbian, gay and bisexual youth.

More than one in five lesbian, gay and bisexual teens reported attempting suicide in the year before the survey, according to the CDC.

The percentage of those reporting attempted suicide has risen by nearly 60% over the past 10 years.

“Our teenage girls are suffering through an overwhelming wave of violence and trauma, and it’s affecting their mental health,” said Kathleen Ethier, director of the CDC’s Division of Adolescent and School Health.

Ethier pointed out that depression symptoms are often different in boys and girls. Girls with depression often have persistent feelings of sadness or hopelessness, she said, but boys with depression are more likely to be irritable or aggressive.

Girls also reported instances of sexual assault.

“For every 10 teenage girls you know, at least one of them, and probably more, has been raped,” Ethier said at the briefing.

Fourteen percent of the girls surveyed said they had been forced into having sex.

The CDC report calls for more programs in schools to address a growing mental health crisis.

“We suggest that our schools start by educating their staff and their families all what mental health is, what supports are available and how they can access their services,” said Anna King, president of the National PTA, who was part of the briefing Monday.

Other findings from the survey included:

  • Instances of drinking alcohol declined with 23% of high school students saying they drank alcohol in the prior 30 days in 2021. It was 39% in 2011.
  • Sixteen percent said they currently use marijuana. In 2021, 23% of teens said they used pot.
  • About 12% said they had ever misused prescription opioids. In 2017 and 2019, 14% said they had used opioids.

If you or someone you know is in crisis, call 988 to reach the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline. You can also call the network, previously known as the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, at 800-273-8255, text HOME to 741741, or visit for additional resources.