New CDC report shows disturbing spike in mental health among teens post-pandemic

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(ABC 6 News) – Mental health has been at the forefront of national conversations since the pandemic. This week, a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirming teenagers, especially teen girls, are entering crisis levels when it comes to mental health.

RELATED: Pandemic youth mental health toll unprecedented, data show

According to the CDC, about 1/3 of kids felt persistent sadness and hopelessness.

Many people say that the pandemic had a detrimental effect on kids.

“It made me wanna hide away, didn’t really make me wanna go out,” explained 18-year-old Paetyn Baxter. “I definitely felt like I was more isolated than I ever had been.”

Paetyn has struggled with his mental health for years. But, when he was 16 years old, and the pandemic isolation began, he hit rock bottom.

“It definitely hit me harder when the pandemic hit because I didn’t focus on the mental health issues I did have. So, when I had all the time alone to think about it it really hit me,” he explained.

His mom, Shaina, said it was extremely difficult.

“That seclusion made things 10x worse and there was nothing really to help with any of it, there was no in-person help,” she said.

For the Baxter family, the pandemic made life dark. It got so bad, Paetyn turned to drugs and dropped out of high school.

The CDC report show Paetyn is not alone. Kids all across the country are overcoming extreme feelings of depression and anxiety.

“You kind of leave the safety of your parents when you get to be a teenager and then you start to rely on peers for your connections, for your social support,” Clinical Professional at the Resilience Center in Rochester, Tim Volz, explained. “I think with COVID it took away a lot of that.”

In the report, 30% of teenage girls say they seriously considered attempting suicide. This is double the rate among boys and up almost 60% from a decade ago.

“That’s definitely a high number. I feel like there could be as many males as well, we just don’t mention it as much as we should,” Paetyn added.

Volz says these latest statistics do not surprise him.

“We’re still trying to drag ourselves out of that pandemic. This is been the pandemic after the pandemic, it’s unchecked mental health and trying to get kids right again,” he added.

When asked what kids can do to overcome mental health struggles, he says they need to talk about it.

“It all comes down to the kid that’s willing to be honest and share it. A lot of them keep secrets and you can’t help somebody keeping secrets like that,” he explained. “So when you’re willing to sit down and get honest about that, then you can begin to heal.”

After getting help himself, Paetyn is approaching one year of sobriety. Physically and mentally, he says he feels better than ever.

“Know that you’re always not alone. There’s always people that can relate to what’s going on and always people that will listen,” he added.

If you are struggling with mental help, make sure you tell your doctor, school professional, or even a family member, to figure out your next steps.

The suicide hotline number is 988.