A government report for March of 2023 gave data showing that teenage mental health challenges have increased dramatically from 2011 to 2021. The data shows a massive increase for boys, but the numbers are not as severe as for girls. In 2021, 57% of teenage girls surveyed persistently felt sad or hopeless, up from 36% in 2011. Teenage boys with the same feelings increased from 17% to 29%. One-third of the girls in the CDC study seriously considered attempting suicide, a 60% increase from 2011.
The government solution for teenage mental health challenges is school prevention programs. Debra Houry, the chief medical officer for the CDC, says, “These data show our kids need far more support to cope, hope, and thrive.” However, all the programs and school efforts cannot substitute for stable home situations. This is one more evidence for the wisdom of God’s plan for the family.
As a public high school teacher, I saw what modern teens have to deal with. Many of my students got up and fixed their own breakfast, went to school alone, spent the day at school with other kids from dysfunctional families, and came home to an empty house. Mother was there but absorbed in her own world, and father was nonexistent. There was no spiritual leadership in the home.
I used to have after-school tutoring sessions in my classroom for students who needed help with their homework. Many times the kids just wanted to talk. I still receive calls from former students who remember our talks. Now teachers are not allowed to have that kind of interaction with their students, and school programs are run by people who don’t understand kids’ emotional needs.
It is no mystery why teenage mental health challenges are increasing. This situation will worsen as our society moves deeper into secularism and psychological principles based on animal behavior. The Church needs to offer what the world cannot. Jesus said, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:34-35). The word translated “love” is the Greek word “agape,” which means to consider of incredible wealth and value. Kids need to hear that message, and for many of them, the Church is the only place they can hear it.
— John N. Clayton © 2023
Reference: NEA Today magazine for June 2023, page 15.