It can be useful information to know how well adolescents are doing in a particular state or region of the country. There’s no question that certain parts of America, such as the Northeast and the Midwest, are seeing high rates of teen addiction and drug overdose.
However, in California, the mental health rates vary somewhat compared to national averages. California mental health surveys show that adolescents struggle with sadness, depression, addiction, and co-occurring mental illnesses.
According to the California Health Information Survey (CHIS), 30.5% of 9th graders and 34.7% of 11th graders reported feeling sad and hopeless almost every day for two weeks. This is important to recognize especially when keeping in mind that very few the teen mental health treatment they need. Frequently, teens and even parents do not recognize that there is a problem or psychological concern. What’s risky about this is that untreated mental illness can contribute to a teen’s performance at school, alcohol and drug use, HIV transmission, physical ailments, and suicide.
Along these lines, the CHIS also indicates that 21% of California teens are at risk for depression. Nationally, surveys indicate that 1 in 10 adolescents had a major depressive episode in the past year, indicating that California teens might have a higher prevalence of teen depression compared to the rest of the country. However, frequency rates vary and can be difficult to compare depending on the definitions used and the age group studied in each survey.
On the brighter side, the Office of Adolescent Health of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services indicates that 94% of adolescents in California demonstrate positive social skills. These skills are defined as showing respect for teachers and neighbors, getting along well with other children, trying to understand other people’s feelings, and trying to resolve conflicts with classmates, family, or friends. This report comes from a survey done of California teens ages 12-17. Compared to the national average of 93%, California adolescents are slightly higher in their demonstration and knowledge of social skills.
Positive reports, such as this one, are needed given the presence of mental illness for many adolescents and the general lack of services available to teens. It’s important to talk about the signs of teen depression, among other adolescent mental illnesses, to increase awareness and reduce social stigma surrounding psychological disorders.
Serious injury is also of importance when considering the overall health of adolescents. According to the last census, there were 35 million California adolescents, and of these 16% of teens indicated that they had experienced a serious injury. Along these lines, between the years 2000 and 2004, the leading causes of death in order of rank for California adolescents aged 12 to 17 were accidents, homicide, cancer, suicide, and diseases of the nervous system. Because homicide and suicide are among the top four leading causes of death for California teens, they are significant mental health factors. This parallels the leading causes of death for the country as well. Homicide, and especially suicide, are so closely associated with depression, making this a psychological disorder that warrants much attention in the state, and nation-wide.
Many parents, teachers, and school administrators are working together to support teens, and at the very least, to give them an opportunity to voice their concerns. When children and teens feel heard and understood, they are more likely to feel supported and as a result ask for help when they need it. Too often, parents hear about the struggles their children go through after it’s too late. Preventing suicide, addiction, and drug overdose among California adolescents is possible when community members join together.