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Local doctors talk CDC study that shows teen girls struggling more with mental health, violence, and suicide risk

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  • Staff Report 

A new study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has found that US teen girls are experiencing record high levels of mental health struggles, including sadness, violence, and suicide risk. The study reveals that three in five teen girls felt persistently sad or hopeless and one in five experienced sexual violence in the past year.

In Central New York, schools continue to grapple with the issue of mental health struggles in students. Dr. Jennifer Rapke, a clinical psychologist at Upstate Golisano Children’s Hospital specializing in mental health, says that these trends have been closely monitored in the region.

“We’ve seen an increase every year since 2014, we’re at over a four hundred percent increase in presentations to the hospital over those years,” she said.

Depression and thoughts of harm are the most prominent issues presented at Golisano’s, an issue that has only worsened since the pandemic. “We’re definitely witnessing this phenomenon locally, and unfortunately, we’re on track already this year to be even higher than last year,” said Dr. Rapke.

The CDC study reveals that females are the recipient of a high report of trauma and sexual violence, which can potentially make mental health symptoms worse in the population.

The study also found that schools need to do more to educate, train and bring awareness to mental health issues. Dr. Rapke says that the data needs to be taken with a grain of salt because young men tend to underreport problems. Although the data shows that nearly double the number of girls struggle with mental health compared to boys, Dr. Rapke says that young men need to be encouraged to seek help too.

“If you notice something is off, trust your gut, ask that person, let them know you’re there as a support, make sure they know they have someone in their world that cares about them and sees them,” Dr. Rapke said.

There are several resources in the area, including the contact community hotline, the suicide prevention hotline at 988, and local emergency providers, such as Upstate, who are available to help and answer any questions one may have.