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Mental health survey finds Washington teens are struggling with depression, anxiety

Teens statewide are struggling with feelings of sadness, or hopelessness according to a recently completed study.
2021 Healthy Youth Survey
Teens statewide are struggling with feelings of sadness, or hopelessness according to a recently completed study.

A statewide survey measuring mental health, substance use and school environments was recently released. It found that between a three to four out of ten Washington high school students have struggled with depression and hopelessness.

Every two years Washington State asks public school students to complete a survey which asks about their physical, and mental health as well as drug and alcohol use.

This year’s results show in 2021, 38% of tenth graders in Washington state said they felt sad, or hopeless, and 69 % said they felt anxious.

One in five students in that age group said they had considered suicide.

Sarah Mariani, of the Washington Healthcare Authority, one of the agencies behind the survey, says the survey is a snapshot into the well-being of Washington’s middle and high school students.

“We know these different feelings and anxiousness, worrying, being on edge, while they may seem know part of being a teenager,” she said, “we also know these things need to be taken pretty serious, because when they don't get addressed, they can lead to more serious and challenging issues for students."

According to the survey results, Native American and pacific islander teens, as well LGBTQ young adults, are more likely struggle with depression, or feelings of hopelessness.

She says people should be cautious about interpreting this year’s results in comparison of past trends, which appear to be similar to this year’s numbers, because of the a one-year delay in conducting the survey due to the pandemic, and upheaval in children’s lives.

She says one area that is a positive indicator, is most students in Washington State say they have hope. About 71% of tenth graders statewide, and 74% in Spokane County said they had high or moderate hope for the future.

“It is good to know that we still have students that are hopeful, are looking forward to the future, are thinking about ways they can have success in the future,” Mariani said. “that is something for us to build on, and support students with.”

Spokane County’s survey results surrounding mental health were similar to statewide numbers, with slightly more students saying they felt anxious, but slightly more students saying they felt hopeful.

Mariani says the Healthcare authority shares the survey results with other state agencies to help them allocated resources to areas of concern.

Those struggling with thoughts of suicide can call the suicide prevention lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. The crisis text line is also a resource that provides confidential text access anywhere in the U.S. to a trained counselor 24 hours a day. Text HOME to 741741.

Rebecca White is a 2018 graduate of Edward R Murrow College of Communication at Washington State University. She's been a reporter at Spokane Public Radio since February 2021. She got her start interning at her hometown paper The Dayton Chronicle and previously covered county government at The Spokesman-Review.