Young Californians have high rates of anxiety and depression, survey finds

Young adults in California are experiencing mental health problems at alarming rates, survey finds, with more than three-quarters reporting anxiety in the past year, more than half depression , 31% suicidal thoughts and 16% self-harm. commissioned by the California Endowment.

The figures reflect a years-long trend of deteriorating mental health among young people that has been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, experts say.

The survey of nearly 800 Californians aged 18-24 also found that young people faced significant barriers to getting help – with nearly half of those wanting to speak to a mental health professional saying they couldn’t do it, and many saying cost or lack of access stopped them.

The challenges flagged by the survey are “extremely concerning,” said Dr Benjamin Maxwell, acting director of child and adolescent psychiatry at Rady Children’s Hospital in San Diego, who was not involved in the investigation.

“As a society, we’ve underfunded support for people’s mental health for decades, and some of that comes out in this survey.”

The poll reveals a generation under pressure from a wide range of issues, with 86% saying the cost of housing was an extremely or very serious issue and more than three-quarters saying the same about the cost of college , lack of well-paying jobs, homelessness, drug and alcohol abuse, and the cost and availability of health care.

Mental health ranks just behind the cost of housing as a prevalent problem among young adults, with 82% rating it as an extremely or very serious problem.

When asked to choose a word describing how they felt about the future of their generation, the two dominant feelings were uncertainty and worry.

“If we compare that to what we get when we talk to [older] adults, we don’t see the same breadth and intensity of concern about this wide range of issues,” said pollster David Metz of research firm Fairbank, Maslin, Maullin, Metz & Associates, which conducted the survey. . “I think that says a lot about the burden young people feel.”

The poll was commissioned by the California Endowment, a statewide health foundation, to better understand the mental health challenges young people face. The endowment funds a variety of initiatives in California that engage in advocacy for mental health and other health-related issues.

Times reporters and editors worked with staffing on the poll questions and verified the methodology before the poll.

The survey was conducted from September 9 to September 18 using an online panel. Because these panels are not probability samples, pollsters cannot use traditional margin of error calculations to describe the uncertainty that surrounds the results of any poll. Instead, pollsters can estimate poll accuracy with a different statistical calculation called a credibility interval. In this survey, this interval is approximately 5 percentage points in either direction.

This summer, the endowment helped organize a two-day summit aimed at working with young people to find ways to respond to what US Surgeon General Vivek H. Murthy called an emerging youth mental health crisis.

Young people who took part in the survey and spoke to The Times described mental health difficulties significantly worsened by isolation and loneliness during lockdowns and school closures.

Alejandra Barba, 20, grew up in a home with a family she loves but who are strictly religious and do not accept that she is gay. She was 11 when she started hurting herself after being abused.

When the pandemic hit, she was a senior in high school. Suddenly, she was forced to stay at home, isolated from her friends and the academics she excelled at and who kept her motivated.

“My mental health just declined rapidly,” she said. She attempted suicide twice and spent time confined in treatment centers. At one facility, she was one of the only young women housed with several middle-aged and elderly men. The food was inedible and there was only one bathroom, with no lock on the door, she said.

Eventually, she managed to undergo intensive outpatient therapy for a year, which significantly improved her mental health.

But getting that help took far too long, she said.

“Accessibility to therapists or resources that can help is very lacking,” she said. “I feel like there is such a misallocation of money. It’s a huge problem.

Overall, the survey found that women and those who identified as LGBTQ were significantly less likely to report positive ratings of their mental health. Just over half of men said their mental health was excellent or good, compared to a third of women.

Five percent of respondents identified as gay or lesbian and 17% as bisexual. Of young adults who identified as LGBTQ, a fifth said their mental health was excellent or good.

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Another survey participant, who is 18 and attends a community college in San Diego, said the loneliness of the pandemic has left her with extreme anxiety.

Her freshman year in high school was entirely remote. She had been a strong student, but had trouble concentrating online or feeling motivated. Some days, she spent hours scrolling through TikTok videos.

Thirty percent of survey participants said they felt social media had a negative effect on their mental health, and those who spent more time online rated their mental health less positively.

“Your junior year is where you’re supposed to look for colleges and figure out the important stuff,” she said. “At that time, it didn’t seem important to me.”

She asked The Times not to use her name to protect her privacy.

When she returned to campus for her senior year, “it was stressful and overwhelming,” she said. Her anxiety left her with pain in her stomach. She vomited frequently and lost weight.

Now, a freshman in college, she said, “My anxiety is much better since high school. But I’m still struggling with the symptoms.

Schools need to offer more support to young people, she said.

“I know they have counselors,” she said, but “they need real therapists in schools, like certified child therapists, to help students.”

Terra Bransfield, 22, a student at Sonoma State University, said she struggled with body image issues and eating disorders. But she feels lucky to have a supportive family and a close circle of friends with whom she feels comfortable talking about mental health.

Her friends talk openly about their issues with depression, anxiety, and body image, and share the things they do that help them, like writing in a journal.

“I know I’m supported and loved,” Bransfield said. “A lot of times that’s the most important thing – knowing you’re not alone.”

Although a majority of survey respondents said it was difficult for them to talk about mental health with others, nearly three-quarters said they had spoken to friends or family about their mental health or well-being. -be.

Just over 4 in 10 respondents had spoken with a therapist or other health professional about mental health issues. And 1 in 4 said they would like to speak to a professional but had not.

Bransfield said she felt both uncertain and optimistic about the future. Her food issues have improved, but she knows they’re still part of who she is: she worries about financial security, the need for social justice, and attacks on LGBTQ rights. The impact of the loneliness she felt during the COVID-19 shutdowns was long-lasting, she said.

But she also has big plans for her future – she would like to open a cafe-dance studio that will serve as a community gathering place.

“There’s so much uncertainty, and that uncertainty can be really scary,” she said. At the same time, “you can be optimistic and happy and feel good about yourself.”

Maxwell, of Rady Children’s Hospital, said while the survey results are distressing, he is also optimistic things can improve.

“We have good treatments,” he said. “We know they work. We know what to do. We just need to allow people to access these treatments.

California is moving in a positive direction when it comes to providing support, Maxwell said, citing the state’s $4.7 billion effort to improve youth mental health, which follows what the governor Gavin Newsom called it “decades of neglect”.

The state’s plan aims to overhaul existing systems, including helping schools provide better treatment, creating virtual assessment platforms and expanding suicide prevention programs.

Sarah Reyes, director of communications for the California Endowment, said the levels of worry, anxiety and depression reported by young people should be of concern to everyone.

“You never think of young people as worriers. It’s usually left to all of us going gray,” she said. “So we have to stop, and we have to listen and identify so we can help them.”

Los Angeles Times

Not all news on the site expresses the point of view of the site, but we transmit this news automatically and translate it through programmatic technology on the site and not from a human editor.
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