News and Insights

Shining a Light on Youth Mental Health in the U.S.

June 12, 2024

Within the past few years, America has experienced a stark wake-up call: The kids are not all right.

Recent research demonstrates youth mental health has reached a critical point:

While the COVID-19 pandemic may have magnified and amplified the mental health issues American youth are facing, that’s not the origin. Several factors that influence youth mental health include:


Research published in the journal Clinical Psychological Science found a correlation between the amount of time adolescents spend on electronic devices and symptoms of depression and suicidal thoughts, especially among girls.

According to Common Sense Media, smartphones are a ubiquitous yet highly personalized presence in adolescents’ lives. For most, smartphones take up a large part of their waking hours. The quality of time dedicated to smartphone use varies widely, but inherently either disrupts or augments time spent on other activities of connecting in person-to-person interactions. This latter issue regarding person-to-person socialization is a cornerstone of adolescent social and emotional development, a necessity of the human brain. There is little doubt that smartphone overuse is functioning as an inherent disruptor of this basic building block of human maturation and brain development.

Social Media

Social media is a contributing factor as well. Various platforms foster environments where young people share an increasing amount of their lives online, giving rise to conditions where youths compare themselves to others, which can lead to low self-esteem and feelings of inadequacy.

Academic Pressure

Academic pressure is a significant and long-established factor affecting youth mental health, with numerous studies indicating a positive correlation between the two. A systematic review of 52 studies in the Journal of Affective Disorders reported that academic pressure or proximity to exams during the school year is associated with an increase in mental health issues among adolescents, including anxiety, depression, self-harm and suicidal thoughts. Academic pressure is complex and often triggers issues encompassing fear of failure, concerns about the future, chronic stress about workload and exams, worries about parental expectations, and competition with peers for grades, among other stressors.

Mental Health Resources

One of the most effective ways to address the youth mental health crisis is through education and awareness. Schools play a crucial role in this regard. However, many schools are underfunded and ill-equipped to handle students’ mental health needs. The Washington Post estimated that U.S. public schools would need to hire 100,000 school-based mental health professionals to the workforce to provide adequate support.

Where Do We Go from Here?

It is essential for parents, educators, policymakers and society at large to fully understand the scope, causes and potential solutions to addressing this issue.

Overcoming the mental health challenges America’s youth are facing requires a multifaceted approach, including increasing awareness, reducing stigma, enhancing access to care, strengthening policies and increasing funding for services, and providing young people with the necessary support to better understand and communicate about their mental health needs.

In keeping with this goal, we spoke with some of the leading experts within the fields of education and mental health, including:

Over the next few weeks, we’ll feature Q&As with each of these esteemed professionals, discussing the sources of mental health challenges in greater depth and illuminating potential solutions.

TAGS: Education, Health