One in Four Young People Report Experiencing High Levels of Depression

with Jennifer Bateman, Ph.D. of the Boys & Girls Clubs of America

While every generation was impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, the past few years have been especially challenging for kids and teens as they faced school closures, social isolation, and missed milestone events, including prom and graduation ceremonies.

Jennifer Bateman, Ph.D., Senior Vice President of Youth Development for the Boys & Girls Clubs of America, joins host Tetiana Anderson to discuss the current state of youth mental health, based on findings from the 2022 Youth Right Now Survey of more than 100,000 Boys & Girls Club members, ages 9-18.

Posted on:

Feb 28, 2023

Hosted by: Tetiana Anderson
Produced by: National Newsmakers Team

Anderson: Young people today have reported elevated symptoms of depression and anxiety, according to JAMA Pediatrics. In fact, several recent studies across the United States point to pandemic-related stress and social media, both exacerbating negative consequences to their mental health. Hello, and welcome to "Comcast Newsmakers." I'm Tetiana Anderson. The Boys and Girls Clubs of America surveyed more than 100,000 children and teens between the ages of 9 and 18, to get their take on some of the biggest issues impacting them. Joining me to break down the issues young people care about most, and how adults can better support them, is Dr. Jennifer Bateman. She is the Senior Vice President of Youth Development for the Boys and Girls Clubs of America. And Jennifer, thank you so much for being here.

Bateman: Tetiana, it's a great pleasure to be here today.

Anderson: So, even before coronavirus, you all say that, you know, mental health concerns among young people had been on the rise, and had been happening for a decade.

Bateman: That's correct.

Anderson: What do you attribute that to, and what are some of the things that they were reporting?

Bateman: Yeah, unfortunately, there has been a downward trend for quite a bit of time that's been exacerbated by the pandemic. There's a constellation of factors that are all really interconnected that contribute to this. Some are typical developmental challenges, like managing relationships. We've seen increases in academic stress and pressure. Social media, and certain factors in social media, have contributed to this. Certainly, systemic issues like socioeconomic disadvantage, racism, inclusion issues, all of that work together to shape the trend that we've been witnessing.

Anderson: So, you did this survey. I'm wondering what the numbers showed you about how coronavirus specifically exacerbated everything you just talked about.

Anderson: Absolutely. And there's a lot of national data that our data mirrors. For example, we now know that one in five young people experienced clinically elevated levels of anxiety. One in four young people experienced clinically elevated depression. We saw emergency room -- emergency room visits, nationally, go up between 22 and 39% during the pandemic, due to suicide, self-harm, and other mental health behaviors. Our data -- our Youth Right Now data -- show that young people are excessively worried. They're not able to let go of some of the things that concern them, and are seeking additional support with developing coping skills to be able to manage these stressors.

Anderson: So, this survey, Youth Right Now, which came out in 2022, I know you say it's the largest private data set that looks at teens and kids. And I'm wondering what you learned about what this group actually cares about most these days.

Bateman: We learn a lot from our young people. They care about a lot of social issues, mental health being one of them. They're very concerned about gun violence. They're concerned about racial discrimination, LGBTQ inclusion, and a host of other social issues. But they're also just young people, and they care about sports, and gaming, e-sports, arts, and food. But the main thing that resonates with me is they care about being agents of change in their community, and leveraging their networks to be change on these issues. So, it's really hopeful in that regard.

Anderson: How much of a factor would you say social media is when it comes to the rise in the level of concern that this group is expressing?

Bateman: Well, let me let me tell you that it's a little bit nuanced, because there are several variables that young people report as concerning. First is constant information overload that social media and other platforms provide. So, an inability to disconnect from information about the social ills of society, like violence. They've also expressed challenges with pressure to maintain an image on social media, or witnessing others' curated images, and social comparison in relation to that. So, all of these factors work together for certain young people to really contribute to mental health issues.

Anderson: So, your Youth Right Now survey found something that was striking to me. It said that 67% of young people are hiding their struggles. What are you doing to change that specifically, and, you know, in general as they continue to grow?

Bateman: Yeah, that really speaks to the need to develop those those coping skills and that toolbox to navigate through these stressors. Well, what we're doing is we're charging head-on towards this. We are working to be the largest trauma-informed youth service organization in the world. And what that means is that staff are equipped to recognize signs and symptoms, but also to do programming and create experiences every day that address young people's emotional needs. It means that they offer behavioral supports for young people onsite, and partner in communities to make sure every young person has whatever clinical support that they need. And really, relationships are our bread and butter, and have been that for 160 years. It's really what we stand for. And relationships -- meaningful relationships -- are the number one protective factor for youth development and thriving. And so, we're just doubling down on what we already do really well.

Anderson: Continue to double down. And I know people are gonna want to know more about this. What's your website?

Bateman: Absolutely. You can find information about our organization, our mission, and the survey on

Anderson: Jennifer Bateman with Boys and Girls Clubs of America. Thank you for being here.

Bateman: Thank you for having me. Anderson: And thanks to you, as well, for watching. As always, for more great conversations with leaders in your own community and across the nation, visit I'm TetianaAnderson.

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