Addressing the Mental Health Crisis Affecting Girls

with Stephanie J. Hull of Girls Inc.

A recent CDC report found that teens are experiencing declining mental health, with girls faring worse than boys.

Stephanie J. Hull, CEO of Girls Inc., joins host Tetiana Anderson to discuss the unique challenges facing adolescent girls today, and efforts to support their mental and physical health.

Posted on:

February 29, 2024

Hosted by: Tetiana Anderson
Produced by: National Newsmakers Team

Anderson: The mental health of teen girls is on the decline. A 2023 report from the CDC revealed that 57 percent of young girls say they persistently feel sad or hopeless, representing the highest level reported in a decade. Hello and welcome to Comcast Newsmakers. I'm Tetiana Anderson. The CDC report indicated that mental health challenges exist for all teens, but for girls more so than boys. However, there are people working to change that. Joining me to talk all about this is Dr. Stephanie J. Hull. She is the CEO of Girls Inc. And Stephanie, thank you so much for being here.

Hull: Thank you for having me.

Anderson: So we just heard from that CDC report the reasons why girls are faring worse than boys. But you know, why are they internalizing this and becoming more affected? What have you learned?

Hull: One thing we know is that teen girls do spend more time on social media than boys do and that they are always getting much more feedback on their appearance and that that connects really with their sense of their own success. So one of the things that we do is to make sure that they have a context to put that in. Girls Inc. girls have trusted mentors and they are in girl-safe, pro-girl communities that allow them to really process these things and talk to each other about what all these things mean and develop the confidence to have another perspective in addition to what social media is telling them.

Anderson: So in May of 2023, we know that the U.S. Surgeon General labeled the decline in mental health among the young the “defining public health crisis of our time.” He went on to say that, you know, people under 14 really shouldn't even use social media. It seems like a pretty tall order, but you know, there are ways to leverage social media to turn this around. What are some of the things that you're doing to make that happen?

Hull: One of the great things we do is to talk directly with girls about how digital media are created and how social media is produced so that they have some agency, they have some sense of why these images work, how to create their own positive images, how to build their own personal brand, and especially how to build sort of a pro-girl approach to social media to look for the things that they think reinforce their beliefs and provide opportunities for them not to be self-critical, but to see themselves as leaders and to see themselves changing the world for the better.

Anderson: So you guys look at research from a company called Ruling Our Experiences, and they report that a girl's confidence can hit its lowest levels at about ninth grade, but they also say that when they're as young as five is a great time to intervene. What kinds of things are you doing to intervene at that time?

Hull: So we work with girls aged five to 18. We make sure, as I said, that they have a trusted mentor, that they are with each other developing their own curriculum. Girls are part of the decision of what girls do at the Girls Inc. Experience. And when they have a chance to do other things, for example, they can do college and career readiness programming, they can do things about literacy, they can do mind plus body, which is a combination of working to have physical activities that are healthy, good eating habits, good relationship habits. All of those things are part of their lives, too, in equal measure. And when they do go on social media, they have another thing that they know is true about life. There will be no way to keep girls off social media. That's something that I really don't believe will ever happen. But we can have girls become creators of social media. We can have girls speak out and speak up and work on advocacy and try to create an environment that's healthy for themselves.

Anderson: What do you think the future impact is for our whole society when young girls grow up to be strong, confident women with a lot of self-esteem?

Hull: We know that girls have a lot of influence on families, for example. We know that girls can be powerful voices for politics and for communities and schools. When girls have the self-confidence to put their own ideas forward, they change their families, they change their school communities, they change their local communities, and that's really what changes the world. We know that girls in offices will make a difference for the communities that they serve. We know that girls in CEO roles will make a difference for the companies they support. So it's really -- it's got to be something that we start doing with the little ones. We can't have strong, smart, bold adults unless we have strong, smart, bold five-year-olds.

Anderson: I know people are going to want to know more about what you do. What's the website? Where can they look?

Hull: At, people can find all of our resources. We have many resources for parents. We also have 75 affiliates across the U.S. and Canada. There's bound to be somebody you can join locally to support girls.

Anderson: Stephanie J. Hull with Girls Inc., thank you so much for being here.

Hull: Thank you again for having me.

Anderson: And thanks to you for watching as well. For more great conversations with leaders in your own community and across the nation, visit I'm Tetiana Anderson.

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