PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) – New survey results from a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study on teen behavioral health from 2011 to 2021 showed “nearly all indicators of poor mental health and suicidal thoughts and behaviors increased.”

Licensed Mental Health Specialist with Sherwood High School, Eddie Carrillo, says some factors impacting teen mental health in that time period may include internet and social media use and isolation from the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Widespread internet use, like via smartphone, really started to take off in the early 2010s and that’s around the time that the CDC started to collect this data. So, around that time, we start to see rates of depression and anxiety in teens start to increase. I’m not going to say one caused the other, there’s more research that needs to go confirm it, but I think we can look at the relationship and notice that it’s there,” Carrillo said.

According to Carrillo, research has found that teens who use social media are more likely to be more anxious and unhappy than those who do not. On social media, Carrillo says teens face pressures to conform, unrealistic expectations and risks of cyber bullying.

The mental health specialist says the more time teens spend on the internet and social media, the less time they have for self-care, playing sports, going outside or participating in extracurricular activities.

“We have a group of teens who struggle to cope, and who’ve had a hard time with coping skills, and then they’ve had to deal with isolation of COVID. I mean, fundamentally, our teens really are in a different place now than they have been before,” Carrillo said.

The CDC survey also found gender and racial disparities, including girls reporting more feelings of hopelessness and that Black students are more likely to attempt suicide. Carrillo says part of the problem is negative news impacting these teen groups.

“I can’t imagine what it’s like for young girls to constantly see on the news, discussions of their rights are being debated and potentially taken away. For Black teens, feeling like it’s a constant news that someone who looks like them, or someone who has similar background to them, is constantly being targeted or mistreated. And then more recently, with legislation and things in the news, with the LGBTQ+ community and feeling like they’re the target of concerning and hateful comments,” Carrillo said — noting these issues can make it difficult for teens to feel safe in the world.

Carrillo noted that school counselors and staff can help be part of a teen’s support system and says parents should grant their teens additional grace and patience as they navigate their mental health.